DR. AND MRS. ELMER BELT
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By JEANETTE COVERT NOLAN
The Junior Literary Guild and
Julian Messner, Inc.
PUBLISHED BY JULIAN MESSNER, INC.
8 WEST 4OTH STREET, NEW YORK 1 8
BY JEANNETTE COVERT NOLAN
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Lea Hurst— Summer, 1833
Young Lady of Leisure
Travels and Dreams
Glimpse of a Mission
The Call to Service
Journey and Arrival
A Lady with a Lamp
Problems and Solutions
"The Daughter of England!"
A New Summons
More Lamps Lighted
At Home in South Street
Trials and Triumphs
Florence Nightingale Frontispiece
"Aren't you enjoying the party?" 7
Cantering along the narrow paths which wound
through the clover fields 21
He endured the treatment with patience 31
She recorded it all in her diary 40
"Will you let me be a nurse?" 51
She and Sidney bent over the specifications 59
She wielded the heavy brush 69
The committee bowed to her imperious edict 82
Soldiers were dying of neglect 87
"The English nurse has come" 101
She stepped out upon the upper gallery 103
"Open the warehouse door!" 115
It was mostly hushed 129
"We've come to help you with the nursing" 132
There were large ships anchored in the harbour of
She had to go on horseback 156
Promptly renamed him the Bison 167
She listened to what they said 173
This was their farewell 184
She might seem little and fragile 194
She witnessed the arrival of the Grenadier Guards 205
She was softer with the years 207
LEA HURST-SUMMER, 1833
Florence let the heavy front door swing shut behind
her. Then she crossed to the edge of the flagged terrace
and paused a moment, frowning slightly. Her arms were
filled with dozens of small paper-wrapped packages, each
tied with a bit of red or yellow ribbon, and her cheeks
were a little flushed from the effort of balancing this bur-
den. She looked anxiously about, to see that nothing had
been dropped; she looked again at the packages, her lips
Reassured, she smiled and the frown vanished.
No, she had not miscounted; there would be a gift for
every person at the party, no one had been forgotten—
which meant that all the elaborate plans, her own, Mam-
ma's and Parthe's, had worked out perfectly.
"And a good thing!" thought Florence who, at thirteen,
had no patience with plans which failed.
The terrace was cool, shadowed by the stone walls of
the house, mellow and vine-hung, rising up to the roofs
pointed gables which were like so many conical, dark
hats lined against the pastel blue of the sky and the fresh
green of the summer trees. From here could be viewed
the whole sweep of lawn, orderly, well-tended, luxuriant
as bolts of green velvet unrolled in a draper's shop. But
beyond the lawn lay the warm, sunlit meadow, over-
4 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
grown with wild flowers and straggly with low stone
fences, where today order abruptly ceased in a gay riot
of flashing color and sound.
The party! What a celebration it was, this traditional
gathering of the village schoolchildren for the annual
entertainment at Lea Hurst, Squire Nightingale's Derby-
shire estate. Since early morning the meadow had
brimmed with merriment: songs, shouting, laughter so
boisterous as to dim the roar of the Derwent River over
there among its purple hills; games, dancing, a picnic
luncheon spread on the grass under the alders. Now the
afternoon waned, but festivities continued, and soon
would come the climax of everything, the bountiful tea
to be served on tables decorated with bunting and
streamers— and finally the distribution of the "treats."
"I suppose," Florence thought, "it must be nearly tea
time this instant, and Mamma will be wondering what's
become of me." She glanced at the gold watch pinned to
the ruffles of her cambric bodice. Four o'clock? She must
hurry! Walking briskly, she started toward the hedge
which bordered the lawn— and stopped.
On the far side of the thick boxwood someone was run-
ning and calling her name. "Florence? Flo?"
It was her sister's voice, and Florence waited. "Hello,
"Where are you, Flo?"
"Here, in plain sight." As Parthe darted through a gap
in the hedge and appeared, out of breath and curls fly-
ing, Florence added calmly, "I was in the house, tying
up the packages. Do you want me?"
"Yes." Parthe halted and pressed a hand to her heart.
She was fourteen, a year older than Florence, but not so
tall; an exceptionally graceful girl with delicate features
LEA HURST— SUMMER, 1833 5
and a complexion like English strawberries and cream.
"Oh, I've rushed. Mamma sent me to fetch you."
"Why?" Florence asked. "Anything wrong?"
"Very wrong." Parthe nodded vigorously. "Libby
Brown— you know her?"
"Of course, I know her; and her grandmother too— all
"That Libby!" Parthe said, grimacing.
"But what's she doing, for heaven's sake, to distress
"Oh, not me," Parthe said. "It's Mamma. Libby's doing
nothing— that's the trouble. She's just sitting. And mop-
ing. She won't join in the contests or ride on the ponies.
Papa volunteered to take her to the kennels to see the
dogs— she wouldn't go. She won't talk to any of us or
even to the other children. As you may imagine, poor
Mamma is terribly upset by such behavior. Mamma can't
bear it unless everybody is happy at the party. Every-
body! So she told me to fetch you immediately. You're
to make Libby happy— the stupid little creature!"
"Not stupid," Florence said. "J us * shy and self-con-
scious. If you understand Libby—"
"I don't," Parthe said, "nor does Mamma. But you have
that strange knack of understanding strange people— so
you simply must go to the rescue, Flo. Give me the par-
cels. I'll get a basket for carrying them in, and I promise
not to spill them. Hasten now, darling, on your errand of
mercy, or whatever it is."
Florence surrendered the beribboned armload; she
brushed back the brown hair from her shoulders and
straightened her billowing skirts. "Where'll I find our
"Hiding among the cabbages, probably. At least, I saw
6 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
her plodding in the direction of the kitchen garden a
while ago. I wish you luck," Parthe said. "And don't pre-
tend you mind, because you know you don't!"
As Florence turned and trudged along the path which
led to the kitchen garden, she was both rueful and
smiling. Always, it seemed, the difficult guests at Lea
Hurst, the lonely or awkward ones, fell to her lot, to
comfort and cheer. But Parthe's comment was true. Flo-
rence had enacted the role of rescuer so often that she
didn't mind it. Perhaps she did, indeed, have a talent for
"That might be a valuable thing to have," she thought.
Libby Brown was not among the cabbages. Libby had
trailed from the vegetable beds into the apple orchard.
When at last Florence spied her, she was crouched for-
lornly on a bench in the fence corner, a scrawny and un-
attractive child of eleven, her chin propped on doubled
fists, elbows on knees. At Florence's approach, she scram-
bled up and curtsied.
"No, don't, Libby," Florence said, sitting down
quickly. "What's the matter? Aren't you enjoying the
Libby crimsoned with embarrassment, but she was
frank. "Well, I'm not, Miss Florence, and that's a fact!
Not that anyone's to blame except me. Your mother and
father, Miss Parthe and everybody has been kind as kind.
They've tried. But it's all too noisy, the boys pushing and
the girls yelling as if out of their senses. I like being quiet,
I'd rather be at home with Granny." She sighed. "I guess
I'm just queer, or something."
"Oh, I don't think you're queer," Florence said sooth-
LEA HURST— SUMMER, 1833 i
"No, and I know how you feel. I like being quiet, my-
'Aren't you enjoying the party?"
"Yes," Florence said, "and whenever I want to be very
quiet, I go upstairs to the old nursery. That's the quietest
place in the world; only the dolls live there now. Libby,
why don't you go up to the nursery with me? I'll show
8 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
you the dolls and you can play without any interruptions
or bothering; you can have your tea brought up and eat
with the dolls."
"Would— would that be all right?" Libby's eyes bright-
ened. She had heard of the collection of dolls in the
Nightingale sisters' nursery.
"Oh, certainly," Florence said, getting to her feet.
Obediently, Libby slid oS the bench and followed, her
stout, square-toed boots scuffing the gravel, blissful an-
ticipation dawning in her thin face.
The nursery, a spacious room with oak-beamed ceiling
and mullioned windows, was on the top floor of the
house; two flights of stairs had to be climbed to reach it.
But Libby Brown didn't begrudge the exertion. From the
moment the door was opened and she entered, Libby was
in a state of enchantment, her shyness fading away as she
trotted about, inspecting everything and pelting Florence
with eager questions.
"How many toys! Are they yours?"
"Yes, mine and Parthe's."
"And books! And the little desks— do you have your
"Not any more." Florence had mounted a stool and
was lifting down from a row of shelves the miniature
trunks in which the dolls were kept. "We're too big now;
we could scarcely fold our long legs under the desks,
could we? We don't study much at Lea Hurst. This is
our vacation. When we go back to Embley, lessons will
"Embley? Where's that?"
"In Hampshire. Embley's our other home, where we
spend the autumn and winter."
LEA HURST— SUMMER, 1833 9
"Yes, every year."
"And the spring, Miss Florence?"
"Yes, unless we're staying in London then, as we often
"Are the lessons hard?"
"Awfully hard," Florence said. "History, mathematics,
Latin and Greek. And Papa teaches us Italian. Papa is a
strict teacher, much stricter than Miss Christie, our gov-
erness. He has us write essays, one each week, to improve
our grammar and spelling."
"I wouldn't like writing the essays."
"I don't like them, either," Florence confessed. "Par-
the's better at them than I am. Parthe's better at all the
"But why do you have another home?"
"Well, that's because of Papa." Florence jumped down
from the stool and searched in a bureau drawer for keys
to the trunks. "Papa is a Derbyshire man by birth; his
people all lived in this part of England, and he dearly
loves it. When he and Mamma were married, they settled
at the Hall— Lea Hall, you know, just across the valley,
the old farm which Papa inherited from his Great-uncle
Peter Nightingale. But the farmhouse was inconvenient,
and damp and cold and not very big, so Papa built Lea
Hurst, this house. Then later he and Mamma were visit-
ing in Hampshire and they saw Embley Park, and it was
for sale, and they thought it was so beautiful that they
must buy it— so they did."
"If I lived at Lea Hurst," Libby said, "I'd never go to
Embley or anywhere else. I wouldn't budge."
"Wouldn't you? But Embley is very nice, too, and close
to London, when Papa has to travel to the city on busi-
"Nicer than Lea Hurst?"
10 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
"Maybe not. No," Florence said, "I couldn't choose be-
tween them, really. I almost cry when it's time to leave
Lea Hurst in September— but, somehow, I'm every bit as
sad at leaving Embley in the spring. Oh, Libby, the keys!
Here, you may unlock the trunks and unpack them."
For the next quarter-hour, Libby, who liked being
quiet, was quiet as a little mouse, exploring the contents
of the trunks, carefully taking out and examining the
dolls, which were of all sizes and varieties— big waxen
lady dolls with wigs of golden hair; bisque babies with
painted heads and jointed, muslin bodies; China dolls,
French dolls, rag dolls stuffed with sawdust— while Flor-
ence stood by, watching.
Then Libby looked up, her expression bewildered.
"Why are so many of them bandaged? Are they sick?"
Florence smiled. "The bandaged ones are mine. Yes,
they were always sick; or at any rate, I used to play they
were. I always had them breaking their bones, or com-
ing down with cholera or boils or rashes or something."
"So that I could put on poultices and plasters and give
them medicine, and nurse them until they were well.
Only I never allowed them to get entirely well— see, they
have on their nightgowns— because that would have been
"Were Miss Parthe's dolls sick, too?"
"Not at first. But they caught the diseases from mine,
of course, though Parthe made an awful fuss about it."
"She didn't like to nurse them?"
"No, so I nursed them for her. But Parthe insisted on
her dolls recovering completely, and wouldn't have it any
other way. These are her babies, all dressed in their
LEA HURST— SUMMER, 1833 11
"I like Miss Parthe's best," said Libby.
Florence picked up a rag doll and scrutinized it, her
gray eyes tender with reminiscence. "This poor dear!
She had a dislocated spine which I never could cure. She
was my favorite. I practiced on her for ages."
"But, Miss Florence, I don't see why"
"Oh, because I wanted to be a nurse. I still want to be
one. It's my ambition. I'm going to be!"
"A nurse?" Libby said. "You can't!"
"That's what Mamma tells me," Florence murmured.
"That's what everybody says. But I will."
There was a short silence, and a tapping at the door.
A white-capped maid peered into the room.
"Miss Florence, they've finished the tea, and Squire
wishes you please to help with the treats."
"Thank you, Clemence. Will you bring Libby Brown a
tray up here? Something special, and plenty of the raisin
cake. You'll excuse me, Libby? You can manage by
"Oh, yes," said Libby confidently.
In the meadow, excitement was at fever pitch, with the
young guests swarming around a central table which was
presided over by Parthe and heaped high with the mys-
terious packages. Taking up a position opposite her sis-
ter, Florence thought that Libby 's description had been
accurate— the boys were pushing, the girls yelling as if
out of their senses. As for Parthe, she looked utterly con-
fused, like an old hen surrounded by a flock of unruly,
capering chicks. But Florence saw that Mamma and
Papa had remained serene. Seated in two large wicker
armchairs behind the table, and somewhat separate from
the milling throng, Mamma and Papa looked the very
12 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
picture of benevolent, adult prosperity and might well
have posed as the handsomest couple in the British Isles
—as more than once they had been said to be.
With Florence's arrival on the scene, the passing out
of the presents commenced; and as each child received
his "treat"— it might be a ball or a tin horn, a set of domi-
noes or a wooden spade and pail— loud exclamations of
delight burst forth.
"Oh, awful!" groaned Parthe, holding her ears. "What
lungs they have! My word! But Papa's getting up now
and it'll soon be over."
Yes, Mr. Nightingale was standing, clapping his hands.
He made an announcement, "Children, we'll all sing to-
gether. God Save the King."
They hushed, and then sang, " 'God save our gracious
King!' "—all the verses of it, bravely and earnestly, with
the Squire himself leading in a robust baritone, and the
hills echoing the melody.
That was the end of the party, as everybody realized;
the signal for farewells. Reluctantly everybody went
As the flurry of departures subsided, Parthe collapsed
in the grass and leaned against Mamma's knee. "Isn't
this a relief? Isn't the peace simply wonderful?"
"Are you tired, dear?" Mamma stroked Parthe's curls.
"I'm exhausted. I love the party, and I love it's being
"But it was very successful, wasn't it?" Mamma
smiled, fanning herself with a wisp of lace. She turned
to Papa. "William, don't you think it was successful?"
"Yes. Yes, indeed." Papa got out his own kerchief, a
huge square of white linen and mopped his brow.
LEA HURST— SUMMER, 1833 13
"Where's Florence? Ah, there you are, Flo. Come away,
daughter, the servants will clear up all that mess on the
tables. Well, were you satisfied with the event?"
"I don't know." Florence patted Papa's shoulder affec-
"What!" He slipped an arm around her waist. "You
"It was all just fine. But— was it enough, Papa?"
"Why, Florence!" Mamma said, glancing up, aston-
ished. "Whatever do you mean? I'm sure the children
appreciated it, they had such a good time. I've never seen
them so happy." She paused, her pretty face pink, her
blue eyes clouding. "But you may be right. Maybe we
don't do enough. We're so fortunate, we have so much.
We must share—"
"Oh, Mamma!" Parthe said. "Flo's always having these
odd notions. Pay no attention. Who could do more than
you, or be more charitable and generous? The villagers
adore you— we all adore you. You're the good woman of
the Bible, the one in Proverbs who stretches out her
hands to the poor and reaches forth to the needy, and
everybody rises to call her blessed."
"Yes," Papa said. " 'Her price is far above rubies. Her
husband praiseth her,' But is that what Florence
"No, it isn't, Papa!"
"What do you mean?" Parthe said.
Florence hesitated. "I'm afraid I can't quite— well, for
the children the party was enough— and you are just
splendid to the villagers, Mamma, and they do love you.
But, I mean, is it enough for us? Caring for the poor is
now only a little part of our lives, something extra. But
oughtn't we do it all the time?"
14 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
"And do nothing else? Oh, Flo," Parthe cried, "how
silly! Why then we should have no time to ourselves."
"I suppose it is rather silly," Florence said. "But—"
"Libby Brown!" Parthe exclaimed suddenly. "Where
"Oh!" Florence said. "I forgot. She's in the nursery."
"She should have gone home with the rest of the chil-
dren," said Mamma. "Her grandmother will be vexed."
"Never mind, my dear," said Papa. "I'll have one of the
grooms drive Libby home in the pony-cart."
The Nightingales were people of prominence not only
in Derbyshire and Hampshire, but also in London; both
Mamma and Papa had distinguished connections every-
where. Before her marriage, Mamma had been Frances
Smith, daughter of William Smith, who for forty years
was a member of Parliament, a man possessing wealth,
social position, a large and satisfactory family, and an
enviable reputation as the advocate of religious freedom
and the protection of the underprivileged.
The William Smith country place was Jermyns, in Es-
sex; there Mamma had spent the happiest possible child-
hood, growing up to be a charming and popular belle.
In 1818 Mrs. William Smith had written to a friend, "Our
beautiful Fanny is to marry young Nightingale." Every-
one had thought it an excellent match.
At Jermyns, and at her father's London house, Mamma
had learned to be a perfect hostess, and now nothing
pleased her so much as to entertain visitors; indeed, she
was famous for her hospitality. Perhaps Papa was less
enthusiastic about the steady flow of "company" through
the gates at Lea Hurst and at Embley— his interests were
scholarly and agricultural, concerned with his books ( es-
pecially the philosophical and religious books ) and with
his acres of land, which were tilled by tenant-farmers—
16 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
but he was devoted to his "beautiful Fanny," and very
proud of her; he indulged her every fancy.
It was Mamma's wish that the two girls, Parthe and
Florence, should have as secure and serene a youth as
her own had been; she expected them to like the same
pastimes; she hoped that they too would some day be
the wives of worthy husbands and manage households
similar to hers. In Parthe's case, these ideas of Mamma's
seemed certain to bear fruit, for Parthe agreeably ac-
cepted them all. But about Florence, Mamma was not
As Parthe had said, Florence had odd notions. Was she
also a little stubborn? Yes, Mamma and Parthe thought
that perhaps she was— in a polite and sweet-tempered
way, of course; which, as everybody knows, is the most
wearisome sort of stubbornness to combat and overcome.
For one thing Florence often grew bored with the con-
fusion which a houseful of even the best-mannered
guests can create. Then she would take long, solitary
walks through the fields and woods; or seek companion-
ship with her pets, the ponies, the dogs, the ducklings,
the tame squirrels scampering on the lawn. Sometimes
she would go and sit in the chapel at Lea Hurst, thinking,
losing herself in a dream of all the noble deeds she
wanted to accomplish when she was older, wiser and
The chapel was a small structure which had been on
this very spot since the days of Queen Elizabeth and it
was really a part of the house, for Papa, who liked his-
torical relics, had built Lea Hurst's strong stone walls
right around the chapel. On Sundays a village Bible class
met in the chapel, but on weekdays it was deserted, an
interior swimming with pale yellow reflections of the
HOLIDAY SEASON 17
sunshine outdoors, and so still that you could hear the
branches of elms and oaks scratching on the roof.
Whenever Florence went into the chapel, she would
think ( for a while, at least ) about God— because she en-
joyed thinking about Him at any time, and it seemed to
her particularly easy to believe and trust in Him here.
She could even imagine that He was beside her, hovering
close, and ready to listen to anything she might say to
Him. She knew that, as Mamma and Papa had always
told her, God was good; and the knowledge of His un-
failing goodness made her yearn to do something (a
really large and useful something! ) toward the winning
of His kingdom on earth. She hoped that God wouldn't
object if she preferred to worship like this, alone in the
chapel's seclusion, rather than by attending the regular
Sunday church services— from which she occasionally
absented herself on the plea of a headache. After all, the
spirit of worship was what mattered, wasn't it, and not
Having thought about God, Florence's attention would
wander to other subjects, perhaps to Papa whom she
loved so much. Not that she didn't love Mamma and
Parthe also— of course, she did! But probably there was
no harm in admitting that she was fondest of Papa, and
felt a peculiar bond of sympathy with him.
Florence thought of Papa as an unusual man; and, to
begin with, his name was unusual, because he hadn't
been born a Nightingale at all. No, his parents were Mr.
and Mrs. William Shore, and Papa had been named for
his father; as William Shore he was known in his native
Derbyshire, at the university in Edinburgh, and again at
Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took his grad-
uate degree. But his mother had been a niece of old
18 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
Peter Nightingale of Lea Hall, who wanted young Wil-
liam Shore to be the heir to his extensive estates; so,
when he was twenty-one and no longer a minor in the
eyes of the law, Papa had got his surname legally
changed to Nightingale, as a tribute of gratitude and
respect to the memory of Great-uncle Peter. After that,
Papa was William Shore Nightingale; and now it was
almost forgotten that his name had ever been anything
In fact, Papa believed that a name should mean some-
thing, everybody's name, and not be merely a tag, with-
out rhyme or reason, which you must wear forever,
whether you liked it or not; with this principle in mind,
he had selected the names for his daughters. For the first
three years of their married life, he and Mamma had
traveled in Europe; they were in Italy, at Naples, when
their first child was born, and Papa had said the baby
must be called Parthenope, which was the name of the
ancient Greek settlement originally on that site. Then, a
year later, on May 12, 1820, at the Villa Colombaia, near
the Porta Romana in Florence, a second little girl was
born to the Nightingales.
"Her name/' said Papa, "will be Florence."
Perhaps some people would have regarded this method
of naming children as whimsical (and, in Parthe's case,
rather too whimsical— though certainly Parthenope was
better than Naples, which would have been strange, in-
deed! ) ; but Florence approved of it, as she approved of
everything Papa did. He was such a dashing figure of an
English country-gentleman— sturdy and tanned, immac-
ulately dressed in high white stock, plush-collared coat
and tight-fitting trousers buckled down under the soles
of his well-burnished boots. Papa was humorous and
HOLIDAY SEASON 19
mild, never scolding; his daughters had never known
him to be angry. Perhaps he was, if anything, too lenient
in disposition; or perhaps he only seemed so because in
his leisurely existence there were few occurrences to
Somehow the school party was always a turning-
point in the summer; afterward, the weeks fairly flew
by, bringing nearer the time when the Nightingales, bag
and baggage, servants and all, would move to Embley.
As Florence had remarked to Libby Brown, the process
was one to be viewed with mingled emotions. At Embley
she would see many old friends, including various fami-
lies of cats, spaniels and rabbits, and the horses in the
stables; and she would be reunited with Miss Christie,
the governess, who was a dear person. From Embley
there might be a trip or two to Grandfather Smith's house
in London. But Florence was sorry to think of Lea Hurst,
empty and shuttered through the winter. How lonely it
would be until the owners came again!
During the last week of August, Mamma made daily
excursions to the village, for she could never have left
without knowing that all the tenants were well provided
with food, blankets and substantial clothing. It was re-
garded as a matter of course that Florence should ac-
company her and call on the invalids. According to
Parthe's teasing comment, Flo always preferred ill peo-
ple to healthy people— to an extent, this was true. In the
basket on Florence's arm would be bunches of flowers,
jars of broth or jelly, bottles of liniment; she knew just
how to shake up a pillow, or brew a cup of tea or stir a
pot of porridge. Her manner unhurried and soothing,
she was content to sit a while by the sickbed, talking,
telling a story, reading a chapter from the Bible.
20 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
But she did not like being thanked for such kind-
nesses; she shrank from compliments or praise. When
old Granny Brown hailed her as an "angel child," she
was quite wretched.
"Bless you, Miss Florence! Ah, what a grand little
lady she is, what a gentle way she has with her!"
"I wish they wouldn't," Florence thought, blushing.
"I'm not doing it for that''
If only the sick people could have been as silently re-
ceptive and unprotesting as were the sick dolls!
On the last day of the week, with all the villagers, ill
or healthy, ministered to, Mamma gave Florence and
Parthe permission to ride their ponies across the valley
to Lea Hall, where Great-uncle Peter Nightingale had
lived. They went in the afternoon, cantering along the
narrow path which wound through the clover fields,
then up the hill to the crest and the old, old gray stone
house set in a thicket of giant rose bushes and clustering
trees. The Hall had no occupants now; the girls got
down from their side-saddles and walked all around
and peeped through the bluish, cobwebbed window-
"From here," Parthe said, "I get glimpses of the stair-
case. Remember the twisted balustrade, Flo? Remember
how we played on the steps when we were little?"
"Let's peep in at the kitchen," Florence said, "and re-
member Anthony Babington."
"And the conspiracy? Yes, let's!"
On tiptoe, hands shading their eyes, they looked into
the kitchen, a room of ample proportions, with heavy-
timbered roof and a huge stone hearth, equipped with
copper kettles and roasting-spit.
"There's the trap-door to the attic chamber!" Parthe
HOLIDAY SEASON 21
exclaimed. "Can't you just imagine Babington's com-
rade, the young nobleman, hiding in the attic, waiting,
quaking in his boots— being caught?"
Cantering along the narrow paths which wound through the
Florence nodded and began to speak, slowly, as though
she recited a history assignment: "Almost two hundred
and fifty years ago, when Elizabeth was on the throne,
22 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
this house was known as Dethick. Then it was the home
of Henry Babington and his son Anthony—"
"And it was larger, Flo," said Parthe, interrupting.
"Oh, yes. Much larger, very different, with turrets and
balconies, galleries and ballrooms and an underground
"Which led to Wingfield Manor, where Mary Stuart,
Queen of Scots, was kept a royal prisoner by Elizabeth!"
"Perhaps," Florence said. "Anyway, many people be-
lieved the passage led to Mary's prison. Young Anthony
Babington was a stanch supporter of Mary Stuart; he
had lived in Paris and there he pledged his fealty to her.
When he returned to England he joined the secret or-
ganization which was plotting to release her, and often
the meetings of the secret society were held here at
"Right in this kitchen!" Parthe said. "And when the
plot was discovered some of the conspirators fled to this
house, and Elizabeth sent her soldiers to seek them here.
Well, go on, Flo."
"At night the soldiers came," said Florence, "and burst
open the door; and though they didn't find Anthony
Babington himself, they did find others of the plotters,
and seized them and dragged them off in irons. One man
had crept through the ceiling trap into the chamber
above, but somehow the soldiers knew it, and they got
up on benches and forced up the trap-door, and so they
captured him too. Then they went back along the road
and presently they did find poor Anthony and arrested
him; they took him to London— where he and all the
society members were beheaded."
"Then," said Parthe, "Mary was tried and she was exe-
cuted. Oh, what a tragic tale! Would you like to be a
HOLIDAY SEASON 23
"What? And have my head cut off?"
"Elizabeth's head was never cut off."
"But Mary's was. No, I should hate being a queen/*
"Such terrible things don't happen nowadays. It
mightn't be so bad," Parthe said. "Queens never have to
work, you know."
"But I want to work, Pop."
"As a nurse, I suppose?"
"Yes. Why not?"
"Oh, you've been told so often, Flo! Nurses are never
ladies. They're just dreadful women, slaving in dreary,
dirty old hospitals—"
Now it was Florence who interrupted. "Hadn't we bet-
ter go? Mamma said an early supper."
"Oh, yes," Parthe said, quickly diverted. "Early, be-
cause tomorrow we start for Embley. How lovely! You
do like Embley, don't you, darling? Even if the village
isn't so big? There are always a few invalids at Embley."
Florence knew that her sister was mocking her just a
little, but she was not annoyed. Smiling, she swung up
on the pony's back. Nothing Parthe said could annoy her.
Nor could it shake her determination.
"Pop doesn't see," she thought. "She simply doesn't
Mr. Nightingale liked to drive in his own carriage all
the way from Lea Hurst to Embley, taking his time and
stopping frequently en route at the homes of friends or
relatives in neighboring counties. Thus, the journey,
though long, was never tedious— and the exact date and
hour of arrival was of no slightest consequence, because
the servants would have gone before, by more direct
roads, to open and air the Hampshire house and put the
furnishings in exquisite order.
The weather was fine, still warm but with an autumnal
moistness and a transparent vapor shimmering above
the bogs and heaths, the lakes and woods and flowering
copses. When the carriage turned at last between the
gateposts of Embley and bowled along the graveled
lane and halted at the door, Florence thought that never
had the immense Tudor house looked so stately and
beautiful, or the gardens so luxuriant. Little wonder that
Embley Park was a show-place, known as one of the most
picturesque estates in all England! Immediately Florence
was glad to be here.
The first thing she and Parthe did, after alighting and
changing their traveling dresses for more comfortable
clothing, was to run out over the lawn, through the rho-
dodendron borders and hedges of azalea and laurel, to
inspect the cypress tree on the front terrace. This was the
MORNING INCIDENT 25
"nursery tree," so called because it grew close to the
house and towered high, its upper branches making a
canopy of feathery foliage just outside the nursery win-
dows. The nursery tree was old— Florence could not
guess at its age— but even in her memory it had sheltered
many generations of birds and squirrels; and under its
trailing, tent-like boughs, Florence, at nine, had sat to
write her autobiography, writing in French ( "La Vie de
Florence Rossignol" ) since, as Miss Christie had insisted,
this would give her greater proficiency in the foreign
Fortunately, the nursery tree seemed now to be in
good condition. "We must get some chestnuts and poke
them into the holes in the bark," Parthe said. "For the
nuthatches— who have probably missed us."
All that day and the next, the girls renewed acquaint-
ance with old treasures and reminders of happy times in
the past. There was, for instance, hanging in the hall the
portrait of themselves and Mamma, painted by the artist
Chalon, several years earlier. Pausing before it, they
marvelled at what small children they once had been—
"But you were the taller even then, Flo," Parthe said.
"See, I'm perched like an infant on Mamma's knee, while
you're standing up like a real person. You do look intelli-
gent! And so stern!"
"I was scared," Florence said. "Scared half to death,
because the artist was a stranger. You look pretty."
They went into the library and got down their text-
books; and then, by the end of the week, Miss Christie
had come and they were back at lessons. Almost before
they knew it, a routine had been re-established and,
under Mamma's expert management, the family life pro-
ceeded on smooth schedule. Every morning the Night-
26 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
ingales had prayers together, followed by breakfast and
an interval in which Papa read the newspaper aloud at
the table. Afterward, the girls went with Miss Christie
to the schoolroom to study until noon, when luncheon
was ready; then a short period of more study, this time
with Papa, who drilled his daughters in history and
Italian and talked interestingly about philosophy, of
which he knew so much. In the late afternoon there was
outdoor exercise before tea in the parlor at twilight; din-
ner in the evening, and probably some music in the
drawing-room; lastly, more prayers and bedtime. Spare
moments were devoted to reading or to fine needlework,
such as embroidering. Parthe was learning to paint— or
trying to, applying herself with diligence to brushes and
canvas, palette and tubes of bright-hued pigments; but
this was an inclination which Florence could not share.
She would watch her sister, smile, suggest or criticize,
then turn away to write letters— or add, in her carefully
kept diary, further descriptions of "La Vie de Florence
And always there were to stay over Sunday, or longer
(a week, maybe, a month) the inevitable visitors with
whom Mamma loved to surround herself— Smith cousins,
Shore cousins, relatives named Carter and Nicholson. Of
them all, Florence liked best Papa's sister, dear Aunt Mai,
who had married Mamma's brother, Samuel Smith. Aunt
Mai and Uncle Sam were young, and the fact of their
double relationship made them seem especially close and
sympathetic; Florence was never anything but at ease
with them. Indeed, she sometimes thought that Aunt
Mai was the most amiable person in the world and Uncle
Sam the most sensible. She could discuss with them the
dreams she never mentioned to anyone else.
The village on the Park's outskirts was East Wellow;
its vicar was the Reverend Mr. Giffard, a good friend of
the Nightingales'— a special friend of Florence's. Making
his parish rounds, Mr. Giffard never failed to stop in at
Embley where he was heartily welcomed. Before his
ordination as a clergyman, Mr. Giffard had studied medi-
cine and whenever he called, Florence would engage him
in conversations about the care of the sick and injured;
unlike many other adults with whom she had contact, he
seemed to think this interest not strange or morbid at all,
but only natural.
Mr. Giffard was a fine horseman and enjoyed riding
briskly over the Hampshire downs. Often he accepted
Mr. Nightingale's offer of a mount from the Embley
stables; then he would ask Florence to ride with him,
and off they would gallop in the autumn sunshine.
One morning an incident occurred which was to linger
long in Florence's mind— and in the tradition of East
Wellow. Dashing over the billowing green downs, swerv-
ing at a hedgerow, the two friends drew rein and rested
a minute to look at the pasture beneath them. Florence
was breathless, laughing, her hair disarrayed, her hat
fallen back on her shoulders. She said that she loved this
"Those are old Roger's sheep, Mr. Giffard. They be-
have so nicely, marching like soldiers, with Cap to guide
Mr. Giffard agreed. Yes, he himself had noticed the
beautiful manners of Roger's sheep, the white pattern
they made against the green pasture. "Roger is a lucky
farmer to have such sheep— and a collie as smart as Cap
to keep them in line as they graze. There are never any
stragglers in the flock Cap tends."
28 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
But then Mr. Giffard paused, and gestured. "Miss
Florence, something is wrong today!"
She stared at his pointing finger and was dismayed.
Something was wrong, indeed! Today the pattern had
not its customary neatness; the sheep were shifting,
spreading out over the slopes, blundering about, bleat-
ing, straying. Cap, the clever collie, was not to be
As they watched, Roger loomed into sight, in the mid-
dle of the flock. Roger was waving his arms like a wind-
mill. "Heyl" he shouted. "Stop now— hey!"
"Come," said Mr. Giffard, and he spurred forward with
Florence at his side. When he was within speaking range,
he called out, "What's the matter, Roger? In trouble,
Roger glanced up, shaking his grizzled head. "That I
am, sir. In desperate trouble. Can't get these animals to
mind me at all. Plunge here and there they will, and
never even look my way!"
"Ah, poor Cap!" Roger sighed. "Done for, I'm think-
"Yes, sir. The devilish boys on yon farm stoned Cap;
broke his leg, they did. He's a sadly hurt dog, poor Cap.
I'll have to put him out of his misery."
"Oh, Roger!" Florence cried. "You're not going to kill
Cap! You wouldntl"
"Well, I'm afraid I must, missy." Roger tugged respect-
fully at his forelock, for this was the squire's daughter.
"Yes, a bit of rope round his neck, one quick twist— but
I'll never have another dog like him, because there never
was his like!"
MORNING INCIDENT 29
Florence turned from Roger to Mr. GifFard; tears were
in her eyes: "Couldn't— couldn't we do something?"
Mr. Giffard looked thoughtful. "Is Cap in your shed
"No, sir. In my house. Roped up, for he'll not let any-
one near him. Snarls and snaps and shows his teeth. Ah,
he's in pain, poor Cap! And these pesky sheep! See them
go right out of bounds again! If you'll excuse me, sir and
missy—" Shouting, Roger started once more in pursuit
of the flock.
"Mr. Giffard?" Florence said. "You know so much
about medicine. Couldn't we—"
He smiled and slapped his reins. "Perhaps. Come, Miss
They rode to Roger's house. The door was closed,
locked; and from within sounded a violent barking which
told of Cap's lonely suffering, his terror that someone
would intrude to hurt him even more.
"I think Roger's neighbor will have a key we can bor-
row," said Mr. Giffard. "I'll get it."
Yes, the neighbor had a key which would fit. In a little
while they had opened the door and were entering.
Cap lay stretched on the floor, trembling, rumbling
out a hoarse protest of growls. Rut when Florence spoke
to him— "Don't be frightened, Cap. We want to help
you,"— he lifted his muzzle and feebly wagged his tail.
Mr. Giffard bent over the dog and very cautiously felt
the leg which was badly swollen.
"Is it really broken?" Florence said.
"I'm not quite sure yet. Stand back, Miss Florence. He
"Oh, no!" Florence went down on her knees, stroking
Cap's nose. "Why, we've been friends for years."
SO FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
Mr. Giffard made his examination, and straightened.
"The bone's not damaged. It's a dislocation and some
torn ligaments. Serious, but not fatal; the poor chap
ought not be destroyed. Hot compresses are the thing—"
"The kettle's on the stove! I'll boil the water!"
"But we have no cloth for the compresses."
"But we have!" Florence jumped to her feet. Old Rog-
ers smock was suspended on a peg in the wall; she
snatched it down, ripped it into squares, folded the
squares into pads. "Mamma will give Roger another
smock. Is this about the right size, Mr. Giffard?"
"Quite right. Now to heat the water! It may be rather
a long-drawn-out process, Miss Florence."
"Or longer. Will your mother be worried?"
"We won't think of that. Not yet," Florence said, smil-
ing. "I can explain to Mamma."
So for more than an hour they applied the hot com-
presses to Cap's leg and he endured the treatment with
patience, as if he understood that they intended only to
help him. As the pain diminished, his tail thumped on
the floor and he licked Florence's fingers, gazing at her
with beautiful brown eyes.
Finally Mr. Giffard said they had done everything pos-
sible. "But there should be another treatment tomorrow."
"I'll come tomorrow," Florence said, "and every day
until Cap is cured."
At noon they rode slowly homeward. Florence felt
elated, jogging beside Mr. Giffard and chattering away
more freely than ever before. This, she said, was what
she liked— being useful. It was serving God, wasn't it, to
work for the good of His creatures, whether these crea-
tures were people or just dumb beasts?
"When I was a very small girl, Mr. Giffard— just six, I
decided I was going to be a nurse, because that seems to
me the best thing of all to be. I want to work in a hospi-
He endured the treatment with patience
tal, with only ill people around me; I want to make them
well. Parthe laughs at me for that; she says nurses are
dreadful women. But do they have to be dreadful? I
don't think so! I wouldn't be!"
32 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
Mr. Giffard smiled at her eager young face. "My dear
Miss Florence, you couldn't be dreadful. I can't picture
you as anything except wholly charming. But— hospital
work?" He paused. "You have no conception of what it
is. How could you have, a little lady of your birth and
breeding? I fear Miss Parthe's idea is very near the truth.
Conditions in the hospitals are really disgraceful and the
characters of the women who work there are not much
"Maybe," said Florence, "I could build my own hospi-
tal. Papa would build one for me. It need not be a large
one. It would be nicel"
"Oh, I'm sure you would make your hospital nice. But
nursing is scarcely the enterprise for a girl of your station,
"Not even when I'm older?"
"I'm afraid not. You see, you are a gentleman's daugh-
"What difference does that make?"
"A great deal, perhaps." Mr. Giffard paused again. "It's
all difficult to put into words; but in a society such as
ours, there are conventions, rules. You say you want to
serve God? How admirable! But you could do that in any
one of a number of ways."
"What are they, Mr. Giffard?"
"Suppose you married an honest man whom you loved
and then reared a family of fine, honorable children. You
would then be serving God—"
"I don't think I will," she said. "I'll probably never get
married at all."
Mr. Giffard laughed. "You may amend that notion
Florence made no response. She did not care to hear
MORNING INCIDENT 33
what more the clergyman might have to say. She liked
him, but he was mistaken about what she would do.
Whoever opposed her was mistaken.
She rode silently, her eyes on the far horizon.
The years had a way of passing, each one pleasantly like
the one before. Lessons went on and were constantly
more intensive, for Mr. Nightingale's aim was to educate
his daughters thoroughly, so that as young ladies they
could take their proper place in the cultured circle to
which they had been born. But Mamma's training was no
less rigorous; her girls must be prepared to marry well,
rear families and preside over such houses as they had
always known. They must be mindful of their obliga.
tions; must never forget the world's vast number of
poverty-stricken folk. Charity, Mamma counselled, is
the most becoming of all virtues.
The girls listened, believed and followed Mamma's
example. But ever in Florence's thoughts flamed the con-
viction that charity, though beautiful, was not enough.
Remembering the unfortunate, working for their better-
ment, should be one's sole occupation. She wished very
much that she could see for herself the inside of some
of these hospitals which people spoke of as appalling and
intolerable. Why were not the hospitals reformed and
made perfect? Could not their evils be corrected?
At Lea Hurst, in the brief summer months spent there,
Florence took charge of the Bible class which met on
Sundays in the quaint little chapel. She had for pupils
girls no older than herself— yet very different in experi-
GROWING UP 35
ence; they were servant girls, or youthful employees in
mills from the towns roundabout who came to the coun-
try for a summer outing, some of them coming even as far
as from Nottingham, where the big stocking mills flour-
ished. Mr. Nightingale had thrown open his Derbyshire
estate to the mill people; there they could camp out,
tramp about at will, have a taste of fresh air and sun-
shine. When the church bells rang on Sunday morning,
they could crowd into the chapel and hear Florence read
Slender and veiy grave, she would stand before her
audience, her dark hair brushed in wings to frame her
oval face, a knot at the nape of her neck— perhaps with
a rose thrust into it, and another rose pinned to the wide
lace collar of her fine silk frock. She would have removed
her Leghorn bonnet of "coal-scuttle" size and style, and
she wore no other ornaments than the flowers, for she
wanted to be as much as possible like these girls in the
class; she must talk to them intimately, as if she were one
Yet she was conscious of the fact that she really was
not one of them, an invisible chasm yawned between her-
self and them. They knew so much which she could not
know, all the hard things of life, the rough corners and
grim realities. Well, she would learn from them! She
encouraged them to talk frankly of their labors, their
problems. She was the audience then, drinking it all in,
thinking. Perhaps she was secretly envious that none of
these realities ever approached her except by hearsay.
Once Florence had the privilege of seeing Mrs. Eliza-
beth Fry, that valiant Englishwoman who was perform-
ing such miracles in the reforming of prisons and asy-
lums for the insane. Mrs. Fry's career was well known;
in the beginning she had been only a sort of Lady Boun-
36 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
tiful to the poor and neglected in her immediate neigh-
borhood. But, investigating farther, she had looked into
Newgate prison; the female inmates there were miser-
ably treated, utterly wretched, and she had resolved that
something must be done for them and that she was the
person to do it. Elizabeth Fry had the vision of a saint,
the energy of a zealot. Accomplishing the reformation of
Newgate, she carried the fight to similar institutions
For Elizabeth Fry and her triumphs young Florence
Nightingale had a feeling of awe and reverence. The as-
tonishing thing was that Mrs. Fry's background was so
very like Florence's. Elizabeth Fry's family was wealthy,
her childhood had been sheltered. Yet, somehow, she
had emerged from this background as a strong champion
of actual, tangible good.
How had she done that, Florence wondered. What
were the steps by which she had forged forward to her
A rare and indomitable person, Elizabeth Fry! You
thought of her— and contrasted the battles she had waged
and won with your own lot in life, with all its easy cir-
cumstances. The weeks all flowing on so smoothly into
years, each of which contributed to your benefit and en-
joyment; Parthe's high spirits, Papa's solicitude, Mam-
ma's tenderness; the well-managed house-parties at Lea
Hurst, the picnics in the grove, the fetes on the lawn;
luncheons and dinners at Embley; Christmas Eve and
the villagers singing carols under the windows and then
being asked in for a jolly supper of gingerbread, hot
mince pies and eggnog at a table garnished with holly
and mistletoe and silver coins, which were tokens for the
singers. All this seemed designed to make you contented
GROWING UP 37
with things as they were, to distract you from doubts as
to the Tightness of the world. Why not just be swept
But Elizabeth Fry had rebelled. Some instinct had
forced her to probe beneath the surface of her content-
ment, and what she saw there she must remember
Florence Nightingale would probe, too.
When Florence was seventeen, Queen Victoria ac-
ceded to the throne of England.
A dramatic event that was; the whole civilized world
hummed with the news; at Embley Papa read all about
it aloud to the group around the breakfast table. A girl
donning the crown of the mightiest kingdom in the uni-
verse? And what a very young and unsophisticated girl!
"Why, she is only eighteen; your age, Parthenope; only
a year older than our Florence." And how plainly and
modestly she had been brought up, in gloomy Kensing-
ton Palace, where she'd lived almost as a recluse, with
just her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and her governess,
the German Fraulein Lehzen, as companions.
Wasn't it true that Victoria had never slept a night
away from her mother's room? Or been allowed to con-
verse with any adult (friend, tutor or servant) except in
her mother's presence? She hadn't known at all, or even
suspected, that she was destined to be a queen. Not until
she was twelve, when by means of a carefully arranged
history lesson, her mother had told her what the future
held in store.
Then Victoria had said solemnly, her first words, "I
will be good."
The King is dead. Long live the Queen!
38 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
In the early hours of June 20, 1837, King William IV,
Victoria's uncle, died. The Archbishop of Canterbury
and the Lord Chamberlain were bearers of the tidings,
posting to Kensington Palace in the shivery gray light
of dawn, knocking portentously on the door, being ad-
mitted. Long live the Queen! She came walking down the
great staircase, roused suddenly from her bed, clad in her
padded dressing-gown and slippers. It was five o'clock,
the world still and waiting, birds rustling in their nests,
the east faintly streaked with pink.
She walked down the stairs, and the august messengers
bowed low before her. "Your Majesty!" She was sur-
prised, but very gracious, very dignified.
"I will be good."
A few hours more and the privy council had convened
at Kensington, the usual oaths were administered to the
Queen by the Lord Chancellor; all witnesses to these
ceremonies were moved by the spectacle of Victoria's
poise and self-possession. Here was a ruler deserving
love and veneration! In the long chronicle of English
monarchy, a new and better epoch had begun.
At Embley, as Papa read aloud, Florence thought
about the Queen, who wanted most of all to be good, had
pledged herself to goodness. The firm statement of inten-
tion was not difficult for Florence to understand; she
knew what it was like to hear a call to duty and to re-
spond with a vow. There had been that February day in
this very year— February 7, 1839, it was; she would never
forget it— when abruptly from somewhere a voice had
spoken, telling her that she too was to be an instrument
of destiny, divinely appointed. The voice was mysterious,
not human; it may have been only the stirring of the
wind; yet it spoke a clear summons. For so many years
GROWING UP 39
she had wished, with a child's indefinite, diffused long-
ing, to serve God; she had talked of it to anyone who
would not smile— and these listeners, even the politest of
them, had never really known what she meant, their
lack of comprehension had grieved her and encompassed
her in a kind of groping loneliness— but now she was cer-
tain of God's call, because on February 7 she had heard
it unmistakably and answered without hesitation.
Yes, she would serve God, and in the way of His selec-
tion—which, as it happened, was the way she herself
preferred. The problem of Florence Nightingale's future
She recorded it all in her diary; the date, the soft yet
commanding voice calling, calling. Like the young
Queen, Florence had a mission.
"I could not pray for George IV," she was to write,
later. "I thought people very good who prayed for him,
and wondered whether he could have been much worse
if he had not been prayed for. William IV I prayed for a
little. But when Victoria came to the throne, I prayed for
her in a rapture of feeling and my thoughts never wan-
The Nightingales went abroad that autumn for it was
time, Papa said, the girls had some foreign travel. They
went to France and northern Italy, where they remained
several months and were entertained by their numerous
friends there. They were several more months in Switzer-
land, with a long stay in Geneva. It was Mr. Nightin-
gale's idea that traveling had an educational value and
was not to be undertaken merely for pleasure. His girls
must concern themselves not only with the beauty of the
scenery but also with the art, architecture, literature,
people and laws of these European countries. They must
keep industriously at their studies and make notes in their
journals of everything they saw and did.
Perhaps Mr. Nightingale was unaware of the atten-
tion which Florence gave to the benevolent institutions
She recorded it all in her diary
in such cities as they visited or her burning curiosity to
know more and more about hospitals, prisons and work-
houses. Her eyes and ears were constantly open; she ob-
GROWING UP 41
served that here on the continent, as in England, the best
and almost the only help extended to the poor, the in-
sane, the diseased or indigent was through the Church
and its religious orders, or through the exercise of pri-
vate charity. The general public had not been roused to
any enthusiasm for humanitarian efforts; those few pub-
lic asylums which existed were places of filth, cruelty and
squalor. In every nation the populace seemed to be di-
vided into classes, with lines like fences drawn between.
There were the aristocracy, the middle class, the great
masses of the poor and oppressed— and only the excep-
tional person thought much about breaking through the
fences and proclaiming the equality of all men's rights.
Genteel people, many of them, referred to the com-
mon folk as the "mob" or the "rabble," and assumed that
their homes must be hovels, their habits repulsive. Those
genteel people endowed with a conscience were not un-
willing to assist the common folk to a better mode of life
—certainly not! But they did so patronizingly, by way of
charity, with the impulsive gesture of a lord flinging his
full purse ino the outthrust hand of a beggar.
All this was to be seen in the slums of the world's big
cities. Florence Nightingale saw it, and knew, at seven-
teen, that there were shameful flaws in the universal
scheme of things. The flaws must be repaired! But how?
The job was of huge proportions— and what could the
single worker, toiling alone, hope for?
She would watch, inquire, find out.
It was the autumn of 1838 when the Nightingales left
Geneva, going on to Paris to spend the winter. In the
French capital they met Mary Clarke, a brilliantly intel-
lectual Englishwoman whose home was a rendezvous for
the most distinguished Parisian literary celebrities, and
42 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
also for men of political fame. Invitations to Miss Clarke's
salon were sought after; in her drawing-room gathered
the elite, conversation scintillated and sparkled like dia-
monds. She had been instantly on terms of cordiality
with all the Nightingales, a friendship which was to last
through the years.
Because of Miss Clarke's courtesy in introducing them
everywhere, the winter was an exciting one for Florence
and Parthe, gay beyond any they had ever known before.
Parthe especially threw herself heart and soul into the
social program. But Florence too was blithely buoyant,
feeling (as she said, somewhat apologetically) the
"temptation to shine in society." The young gentlemen
who took her in to dinner often had occasion to comment
on the sharpness of her wit, her outbursts of humor and
her keen appreciation of the ridiculous. She was never
so pretty as Parthe; but her eyes were fine, under arched
black brows; her features were delicate and sensitive; and
her slim height set off to advantage all her new Paris-
When in the spring of 1839 the Nightingales returned
to England, they had been away eighteen months; and
now they would not go directly to Embley or Lea Hurst.
They must stop in London, Mamma said, for the "sea-
son." The girls must have piano and singing lessons with
metropolitan masters, must attend a series of concerts
and lectures, and see whatever dramas the London stage
was offering. And they must be presented at court. Par-
thenope and Florence were now quite old enough, their
mother thought, for a formal debut; they should have it
As usual, Mamma's plans carried through. "Success-
fully!" she said. After this, every year they would spend
GROWING UP 43
the season in London— until ( she probably added, to her-
self ) the girls were properly married. Anyway, she had
They reached Embley in the early summer. Oh, how
lovely it was, the grass and copses green, the shrubbery
flowering, roses bending on slender stems in the garden,
the nursery tree a haven for the nuthatches, the rhodo-
dendrons in lavish bloom.
"I shall always remember the rhododendrons as they
look now," Florence thought. "I shall remember them
even when I'm quite an old lady!"
Home, so dear, so beautiful— and so unchanged. That
really was the astonishing thing, wasn't it? The un-
changeableness of Embley and the life to be led there.
You left it, were absent for ages; you came back, much
more grown-up, your viewpoint broadened, and every-
thing was the same! Somehow you were unprepared for
Precisely the same? Well, no. A few alterations had
been made in the house itself, some interior decorating
done, new bedrooms built. Now, as Florence recorded in
a letter, Mamma could have here as guests "five able-
bodied females with their husbands and belongings."
But these differences were scarcely to be noticed, once
the normal tempo of daily life had been resumed.
Embley was the same; when you drove to Derbyshire
later, Lea Hurst would be the same, too. Even tiresomely
the same. In both places luxury closed around you like
a downy, warm blanket.
A beautiful blanket, yes. But rather excessively soft.
Rather suffocating— wasn't it?
YOUNG LADY OF LEISURE
Florence was twenty-one, then twenty-two. And what
was she doing with herself?
Well, all the conventional and accustomed things. No
more governesses, of course, and no more lessons. Papa
was satisfied with his daughters' education, which was
far above average. Indeed, they were extraordinarily cul-
tivated young ladies, adept linguists, speaking several
languages, including the Italian he'd taught them. In his-
tory, mathematics and philosophy they had a solid foun-
dation; they knew a great deal about politics. They were
sufficiently musical, anyway as much as fashion required
them to be; and Parthe, at least, was interested in art.
In their father's eyes they were superbly finished prod-
ucts. Henceforth they should study only as they chose.
Perhaps Papa would have been surprised, had he fore-
seen the trend which Florence's further studies were to
They had a few light tasks to be attended to daily-
nothing arduous; rather, something like arranging the
flowers or helping Mrs. Nightingale with her charity calls
or embroidering an altar cloth for church, or mending
their gloves. Then the girls were free to amuse them-
selves, to dance, sing, stroll with other young people of
their own sort, to give fancy-dress balls, charades or tab-
YOUNG LADY OF LEISURE 45
leaux. Once at Waverley Hall, the home of their Nicholson
cousins, the Nightingale sisters took part in an amateur
performance of The Merchant of Venice, directed by
William Charles Macready, the eminent Shakespearean
actor. Florence was Mr. Macready 's stage manager on
this occasion— most efficient, so everybody said.
But what of Florence's ambition?
It was not much advanced by the passing years. She
continued to look after her villagers— a difficult thing
because of the fact that as soon as she was constructively
busy in Lea, the calendar dictated moving on again to
Embley, or the other way round. After all, she knew
this wasn't what a little girl had dreamed of those sunny
afternoons in the old chapel, not what had been meant
by a small, disembodied voice murmuring in her ear.
This was but playing at something which should be done
seriously. It was imitation, not reality; and the oppressing
thought could never be quite shaken off.
La Vie de Florence Rossignol? She was still writing it,
in her diary, in letters to many correspondents. But what
was at first a vague distaste became a positive displeas-
ure. The life of Florence Nightingale? The captivity, you
might say! She loved her family— oh, yes! She loved her
home. But the Lea Hurst hedgerows, the Embley rho-
dodendron borders ( if seen at a certain angle ) curiously
resembled fences with spiked tops, fences she couldn't
get over or past. They gave her the feeling of being
penned in, shut up within the narrow confines of a plush-
fined jewel case. She must get out. She must!
Sometimes, in London for a week or month, her mood
was more cheerful. London was an escape of sorts. In
the country, she said, there was nothing beyond the ne-
cessity of "looking merry and saying something lively,
46 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
mornings, noons and nights." In the city, "you can at
least have the mornings to yourself."
You were spared, for instance, the ordeal of Papa's
reading aloud at the breakfast table—
"To be read aloud to," Florence asserted, "is the most
miserable exercise of the human intellect. Or rather, is it
any exercise at all? It is like lying on one's back with
one's hands tied, and having liquid poured down one's
Not so bad for Parthe, perhaps. No, dear Pop could
take refuge behind her sketching board while Papa
ploughed methodically through the Times from the first
page to the last. But Florence must sit, listening ( or pre-
tending to listen) and be bored.
The others didn't even guess what went on in her
mind. That was the worst of it! Well, perhaps Papa un-
derstood, just a little, and was sorry. But Mrs. Nightin-
gale and Parthe? Never! Was Florence pouting again,
long-faced and silent? Why on earth couldn't she be
happy? Hadn't she everything in creation to make her
"It's a mystery!" Parthe declared.
"It's a disappointment," mourned Mamma, "to me."
Sometimes Florence solicited advice on how to con-
quer her dejection. Mary Clarke had a suggestion. Why
shouldn't Florence write? A respectable calling for a
lady, and Florence had literary ability, as shown in her
"Write something," said Miss Clarke.
But Florence knew her own limitations; she wasn't
cut out to be an author. "I think what is not of the first
class had better not exist at all," she replied, "and be-
sides I had so much rather live than write; writing is only
YOUNG LADY OF LEISURE 47
a substitute for living. I think one's feelings waste them-
selves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions
which bring results."
She knew what life should be. Exactly. "Life is no
holiday game, nor is it a clever book, nor is it a school
of instruction, nor a valley of tears; but it is a hard fight,
a struggle, a wrestling with the principle of evil, hand to
hand, foot to foot." On the margin of a page of poetry,
she scribbled her belief: "To find out what we can do,
one's individual place, as well as the general end, is
If she had been a man, all would have been so easy for
her! Then wealth and social position might have counted
not as handicaps but as assets. Rich men's sons could be
useful— in politics, for example. But to girls, to young
ladies of Florence's kind, all such outlets for energy were
Young ladies married; or, unmarried, remained at
home. They were sweet, demure— and idle.
A summer visitor to Embley Park was Dr. Samuel
Gridley Howe, the American, whose wife, the beautiful
and talented Julia Ward Howe was to become a legen-
dary figure in the United States as the author of the
Battle Hymn of the Republic. Dr. Howe was an interna-
tionally famous philanthropist, working to alleviate the
lot of blind people everywhere. One morning, as he
walked in the rose garden, Florence went timidly up to
He turned, smiling. "Yes, Miss Florence?"
"Will you answer a question for me? Frankly?"
"I shall be delighted!"
"If," Florence said, her voice very low and vibrant
48 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
with emotion, "if I should decide— really decide— to study
nursing and devote all the rest of my life to nursing-
do you think it would be a dreadful thing?"
"No, not dreadful." Dr. Howe stood, looking at the
roses, his face grave now, as if he saw the depths of
yearning behind the question. "Not dreadful at all. But
—unusual, shall we say? In England whatever is unusual
is likely to be deemed unfitting."
"Yes, I know. Everyone has told me."
"What everyone says has no effect upon you?"
"No. Because I want so much to be a nurse, I'm sure
it is my true vocation! The wish, the hope, is all I care
for in the world—" She paused, her grey eyes misty.
"Then," Dr. Howe said, "you must go on with it, with-
out fear. Pursue and accomplish your aspirations. God
will be with you."
Florence drew a tremulous breath. Here was advice
she could accept! In the presence of this great humani-
tarian, she felt at ease, could speak unguardedly. She
said that she had noted the achievements of the orders of
nursing nuns in the Roman Catholic sisterhoods; for such
women she had a profound admiration, since with them
their profession was an entire religion and even life itself.
But why was there not a Protestant organization of this
"My dear Miss Florence, there is Pastor Theodor
Fliedner's establishment of deaconesses at Kaiserswerth
in Germany. Have you not heard of it?"
She hadn't. Kaiserswerth? Stimulated by the mere
thought that she was to have a new avenue to explore,
she thanked Dr. Howe. He had helped her more than he
would ever know.
That summer and the next, Florence gathered infor-
YOUNG LADY OF LEISURE 49
mation about Kaiserswerth from all available sources,
and frequently from the guests at Embley and Lea Hurst,
many of whom were celebrities in one or another field of
humanitarian endeavor— Sir Joshua Jebb, Surveyor of
Prisons; Dr. Richard Dawes, dean of Hereford and edu-
cational reformer; Dr. Richard Fowler, experimenting at
Salisbury with the open-air treatment of consumption;
Mrs. Elizabeth Gaskell, recently coming into prominence
with her published sketches of the Manchester slums.
Now Mary Clarke was spending a month or two each
year with the Nightingales; Florence consulted with her,
and with Aunt Mai Smith, who was so faithfully inter-
The theory of nursing was uppermost in Florence's
thoughts, something to ponder endlessly. Soon she had
the chance for a brief practical experience. At Tapton
Grandmamma Shore fell ill, and Florence was sent for.
Grandmamma Shore was old and strong-willed; nobody
else in the family could make her take her medicine. But
she was fond of Florence. Maybe with Florence to care
for her, she wouldn't be so unruly a patient.
Florence enjoyed the stay at Tapton in Grandmamma's
house. To her cousin, Hilary Bonham Carter, she wrote
that she hadn't been so nearly happy for a long time.
"I am very glad to walk sometimes in the valley of the
shadow of death as I do here.'' She was glad, too, when
It must have been at Tapton that she hit upon the
wonderful idea of going to study nursing at the Salis-
bury hospital in Wiltshire. In secret she thought about it
—how, having completed the course, she might get a
small building in West Wellow, not far from home, and
there found a nursing center, staffed by an English sis-
50 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
terhood of nurses which she would head. A fascinating
scheme! If only she could get Mamma's consent-
She couldn't. Mamma was shocked. Florence at Salis-
bury hospital? Waiting upon strangers, dressing their
wounds, bending over their beds, nursing them? Flor-
ence exposed to association with the regular nurses,
uncouth men and ill-bred women who drank to excess
(or so people said), used foul language and were ob-
"No!" Mamma cried. "Oh, no!"
"Mamma is behaving," said Florence to Parthe, "as
if her darling Flo had expressed the desire to be a scul-
"Mamma is right," said Parthe. "Your idea is ridicu-
Grudgingly then Florence gave it up. To Hilary Bon-
ham Carter she wrote abjectly of her failure: "I shall
never do anything, and am worse than dust and nothing.
Oh, for some strong thing to sweep this loathsome life
into the past!" Yet hope would not quite die. "The longer
I live," she wrote in her diary, "the more I feel as if all
my being was gradually drawing to one point."
Now Florence thought of asking Papa to get in touch
with certain persons in London who could tell him the
plain, unvarnished facts about hospitals.
"I am not averse to that," Papa said.
"If what you're told is not too bad, will you let me be
"If," Papa said cautiously, "I think a young lady of
your rearing could adapt herself to such an atmosphere,
I shall— well, countenance the possibility."
But the descriptions received were anything but re-
assuring. The stories of hospital life had not, it seemed,
YOUNG LADY OF LEISURE
been exaggerated. There were vicious and degraded
people admitted as patients. As for the nurses, both male
and female, they were most reprehensible; scarcely any
"Will you let me be a nurse?'
among them had either good character or ability; they
drank, they indulged in improprieties if not in downright
"Florence," Papa said, "no one stricken with illness
ever goes voluntarily into a hospital— where, probably,
52 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
the nurses can't even be trusted to give a dose of pills
without making a mistake!"
"But the hospitals are always full of people/'
"People who cannot afford to be sick at home. A de-
plorable thing, Florence!''
Yes, deplorable— and obviously not for William Shore
She was twenty-six now, and reading everything about
Pastor Fliedner which came her way, snatching at any
accounts she could lay hands upon. No tale had ever,
intrigued her so much.
Pieced together, bit by bit, it went back to 1833, when
a Lutheran clergyman in the small German town on the
Rhine had furnished the tiny summerhouse behind his
own humble dwelling as a shelter for ailing and outcast
women. Theodor Fliedner was a widely traveled man
(indeed, he had tramped all over Europe and through
England as an evangelistic preacher); in London he had
talked with Elizabeth Fry. This must have been a meet-
ing of kindred souls, for Fliedner's greatest pity was for
the inmates of penal institutions, and especially for
women who had suffered imprisonment and then been
released as ex-convicts into communities which scorned
and persecuted them. These were the poor creatures he
most wished to help. Returning to Kaiserswerth, he
patched the leaky roof of his summerhouse, made the
interior clean and habitable; put in a cot, a chair, a table,
let it be known that the place was ready for occupancy—
and then prayed that God would send there some friend-
One cold night the first of his charges arrived, stum-
bling through the darkness, knocking. Herr Fliedner was
YOUNG LADY OF LEISURE 53
asleep; his wife wakened him. In his coarse stockings,
without boots, he opened the door.
"Welcome, my daughter."
During that winter, nine women came to the pastor-
age. It was evident that the flimsy sanctuary would have
to be enlarged. Where, asked Fliedner's wife, would they
get the money?
"The money? It will be provided Liebchen"
Somehow, in paltry sums from here and there, the
money was provided. Nurses were secured for the ill
women, nurses whom Theodor Fliedner himself pains-
takingly trained. Within three years, he had started a
hospital in the wing of a deserted factory, equipping it
with discarded odds and ends which he begged from the
more prosperous folk of Kaiserswerdi. Had he only six
sheets for the hospital beds? Ah, but plenty of water to
wash them in, and soap was so cheap! His nurses, the
deaconesses, served not for wages but in fulfillment of a
religious vow— though they could always leave, if they
wished, and go back to ordinary life. Another year or two
and he had a training school for teachers, an orphanage
also; and now in twenty -five European cities his graduate
nurses were beginning other hospitals, modeled after
To Florence, Herr Fliedner's story was the one ray of
light piercing the bleakness of her own frustration.
July 7, 1846, she wrote in her diary: "What is my busi-
ness in the world and what have I done this last fort-
night? I have read the Daughter at Home to Papa, and
two chapters of Mackintosh; a volume of Sybil to
Mamma. Learnt seven tunes by heart. Written various
letters. Ridden with Papa. Paid eight visits. Done com-
pany. And that is all."
54 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
At Embley, October 7: "What have I done the last
three months? They don't know how weary this way of
life is to me— this table d'hote of people."
But she had been perusing the annual report from
Kaiserswerth. "There is my home. There are my brothers
and sisters all at work. There my heart is and there I trust
will one day be my body, whether in this state or in the
next, I do not care."
TRAVELS AND DREAMS
Florence was twenty-seven and going to Rome with
her good friends, Charles and Selina Bracebridge. The
Nightingale sisters offered differing reasons as to why
Mamma allowed Flo to set out with just these two com-
panions—a married couple, of course, yet no older than
herself. Florence wrote to Hilary Bonham Carter that she
hadn't been well: "All that I want to do in life depends
on my health, which I am told a winter in Rome will
establish forever." But Parthe, also writing to Hilary,
confided that Flo had been indulging in "wearing
thoughts," she was so pale, her sleep disturbed; duty had
weighed too heavily on her conscience and she needed
to rest her mind.
Parthe was a little worried about the boldness of Flo's
venture— leaving home without her parents! It was a
thing which Parthe herself would never have dared— or,
for that matter, have enjoyed. When the solemn moment
for farewells came, Parthe declared, "My heart is very
full of many feelings." Still, she really didn't think that
Flo would be harmed by the excursion.
"You must 'do' Rome thoroughly, Flo," Parthe said.
"See everything that Papa and Mama saw on their wed-
ding tour. And let us hear from you often."
Florence promised. No one must ever know how eager
she was to get away!
56 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
For such travelers, Rome had many social diversions
to extend; but Florence, with her studious temperament,
would only sample these and devote most of her vaca-
tion to viewing the Holy City's art treasures. The great
age, the hugeness and grandeur of Rome, its quality of
being eternal and never-changing stirred her to the
depths. In her letters home, as frequent and lengthy as
Parthe could have wished, she told of how awed she
was at beholding gigantic ruins, vast St. Peter's, the
glorious sunsets over the wide Campagna, the incredi-
ble beauty of Michelangelo's paintings in the Sistine
Naturally enough perhaps, her thoughts turned to
religion; she made a serious study of the Roman Catholic
Church, its doctrine and ritual, even going so far as to
enter the ten-day Retreat in the Convent of the Trinita
dei Monti, where she became fast friends with the
Superior, and acquainted herself with the organization
and rules of the large school attached to the Convent.
Observers wondered whether this reverent and intelli-
gent Englishwoman might not be contemplating joining
the Catholic faith— but, if so, her conversion never quite
materialized. No, she would remain a Protestant, a mem-
ber of the Church of England, but she would be always
completely tolerant, respecting all sects, seeing the
spiritual value in them all, hating bigotry and fanaticism.
In any denomination God could be served. And that
alone was worth the doing.
In Rome the Rracebridges encountered some English
friends, Sidney and Elizabeth Herbert, to whom Florence
was introduced. No one, certainly not Florence herself,
could have foreseen the significance of the meeting.
But Florence was at once attracted and impressed by
TRAVELS AND DREAMS 57
Sidney Herbert. Who would not have been? He was
thirty-seven, recently married— yes, this was in fact his
bridal journey, a long holiday between sessions of Parlia-
ment in which for fifteen years, almost from the time he
left Oxford, he'd had a seat. He was a descendant of Sir
Philip Sidney's sister and named for that gentle knight;
Lord Pembroke was his half-brother, Wilton— the finest
country residence in England— his home. To date his
political career had been brilliant; he was perhaps the
best-known among younger English statesmen. Indeed,
all the virtues seemed combined in him. He was hand-
some; he had a keen intellect, chivalrous manners, a
He had something else too, which Florence Night-
ingale was quick to perceive— an unwavering loyalty to
goodness for its own sake, a purpose like a steadily
burning fire to exert all his genius for the uplifting of his
fellowmen. Clasping Sidney Herbert's hand, she recog-
nized in him the man she herself would have wished to
be— had not fate cast her in woman's inferior role.
After that chance meeting, the Bracebridges, the
Herberts and Florence were almost constantly together,
riding, driving, seeing galleries, a congenial group never
lacking subjects for discussion.
"The most entire and unbroken freedom from dream-
ing I ever had," Florence later called it.
Elizabeth Herbert, blonde, vivacious, much younger
than her husband, urged Sidney to tell about the hos-
pital he hoped to build.
"A hospital? Florence will just dote on that!" Charles
Bracebridge exclaimed. "Hospitals are her specialty."
Sidney glanced at her and Florence blushed. "Charles
is teasing. But do tell us."
58 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
"It would be an infirmary for convalescents," Sidney
said. "There are thirty-two villages on the Pembroke
estates, several thousand people. I want an infirmary
where these people of mine can recuperate after illness
and be given the most modern medical treatment in the
best possible conditions."
"His plans are all down on paper," said Elizabeth
"But I've much to do before I start building." He
looked again at Florence. "Since your hobby is hos-
pitals, Miss Nightingale, perhaps you'd come to Char-
mouth sometime and inspect the location and plans."
"Yes, I will," she said.
"Splendid! Just as soon as we're all in England again?"
"Make it a first order of business," Elizabeth begged.
"And don't forget, Florence!"
Florence smiled. She would not forget. No danger.
With the Bracebridges she returned to England in the
early summer, and shortly thereafter she went to Wilton
for several days with the Herberts. Together, she and
Sidney bent over the draughtsman's specifications for
the convalescents' hospital.
Their first consultation. It would not be their last.
If only the "unbroken freedom from dreaming" might
have been permanent! But no, she was back at Embley,
back in the old Slough of Despond. She had expected
that those months in Rome would cure her of her rest-
lessness—Mamma had expected it; instead, the relief
was temporary. A note of desperation marked the entries
in her diary: "My God! What is to become of me?
Everything has been tried, foreign travel, kind friends,
everything." Everything, it seemed, except the one de-
TRAVELS AND DREAMS
sire of her ardent heart— work! That she could not have,
and for the most absurd of reasons, because it was un-
suitable, because she was a lady!
She and Sidney bent over the specifications
Despite her protestations to Mary Clarke, she was
writing a good deal now. Perhaps she might even write
a book, which would be largely about the position of
well-bred women in society. They were utterly useless,
of that she was convinced, the merest parasites. Women
60 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
were not supposed to need food for their heads and
hearts; only their bodies were kept nourished.
What a humiliation it was, and what a wicked waste.
Domestic duties? High-sounding words, yes; but actually
just bad habits. Florence enumerated these bad habits:
"Answering a multitude of letters which lead to nothing,
from her so-called friends, keeping herself up to the
level of the world that she may furnish her quota of
amusement at the breakfast table; driving out her com-
pany in the carriage." This was woman's lot. A hateful
Women had no time to themselves— "never a half hour
in all their lives (excepting before or after anybody is
up in the house) that they can call their own, without
fear of offending or hurting someone." Lucky the woman
who could get an odd moment in which to work at some-
thing of her own choosing! Home? It was not a hallowed
place, but a place of confinement, from which the sons
of the family went away as soon as they could go, and
daughters married, often without love, just to escape.
Such were the thoughts seething in Florence's mind
as she sat, apparently quiet, in the drawing-room at
Embley or Lea Hurst, her grey eyes observing each
detail: the thick-piled carpet and damask-covered chairs,
the softly gleaming silver and sparkling glass, the floor
polished like a mirror; a white-capped maid tiptoeing
in with the coffee tray, a liveried manservant shutting
in the warm candlelight— shutting out the world which
held work to be done, evil to be vanquished, suffering
to be assuaged. Nothing, surely, could be more deadly
than a drawing-room. Unless it was the clock on the
drawing-room wall, ticking, slowly ticking, monotonous,
irritating, with creeping hands measuring off the.
TRAVELS AND DREAMS 61
hours of another long, dull evening, measuring off
"Why are you so pensive, Flo? You're not saying any-
"I'm sorry, Mamma."
She was thinking of her book. Perhaps she would en-
title one of the chapters "Is God in the Drawing-Room?"
She knew the answer, right enough!
Mrs. Nightingale had been reading a novel. A very
attractive story, such a sweet heroine.
Florence had read the book, too. "Probably the
heroine was sweet because she had no family ties, no
mother to make demands upon her."
Mrs. Nightingale was astonished and resentful. She
said to her husband, when Flo had gone up to bed, that
she had always been afraid it was a risk to let the girls
study so much. "Not that I notice any bad effects in
Parthe. But Florence is so— so— "
"Oh, she will settle down, my dear. Don't worry.
She'll be marrying, making some man a good wife."
Upstairs, Florence also was wondering at the contrast
between herself and Parthe. How could Pop endure it?
"Z can't! I simply cant!"
Nor would she marry. There had been chances, of
course; eligible young men who came to court her. Only
one of them she had ever considered seriously. He was
a man already distinguished; Mamma, Papa and Parthe
approved of him and would have smiled on the match.
Florence admired him— even more, she took great and
increasing pleasure in his companionship, found herself
leaning on his sympathy. He had proposed, she had re-
fused him, yet he persisted.
"I could be satisfied to spend a life with him," she
62 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
wrote. Yes, she could be happy with him. But wouldn't
such happiness be just a form of selfishness? Perhaps
she would only be fleeing from one drawing-room to
another quite like it? If she married, her ambition would
certainly go by the board— she could not face the pros-
pect! Work, the kind of work she wanted, was infinitely
more precious than a wife's happiness. That was "the
true and rich life."
She knew that this determination of hers to live and
die a spinster was a disappointment to her parents— to
everybody. Once, a friend of whom she was fond had
remarked to another friend, "Our dear Flo has just re-
covered from a severe cold, but I hear nothing of what
I long for, that some noble-hearted gentleman, one who
can love her as she deserves to be loved, prepares to take
her to a home of her own." Well, that was news which
her friends would never hear! Once Aunt Mai had sug-
gested that a husband might in certain circumstances
be an advantage. Had not Elizabeth Fry been helped
by the fact that there was a Mr. Fry to encourage and
support her? Florence was skeptical of this argument.
Let others marry if it pleased them.
Love was not for her!
Yet she liked to talk with men, to listen to them— and
to know that sometimes they listened to her. Dinner con-
versations were easy for her; she charmed her partners
by the breadth of her information, the depth of her
learning. Sometimes she amazed them.
"That daughter of Nightingale's, the younger one-
very clever, isn't she? Very sharp, something of a blue-
stocking. Gets a chap to spouting on some topic of which
he thinks he knows a lot; his favorite topic, geology
maybe, Greek inscriptions, theology, something of the
TRAVELS AND DREAMS 63
sort. Gets a chap to showing off a bit, preening himself—
and then it's Miss Florence's turn, and in a moment she's
proving that she knows far more about it. Well, well! A
capital young lady— if she hadn't floored me with her
Latin and Greek."
In the autumn of 1848 Florence's hopes soared sud-
denly to an ecstatic height. Mrs. Nightingale was going
to Carlsbad, to take the waters there, her daughters must
Carlsbad? Why, it was not far from Kaiserswerth.
Not too far, anyway. Mary Clarke was now married to
Julius Mohl, the eminent orientalist; the Mohls would
meet the Nightingale ladies in Frankfurt—
"While you all go on to the baths, I shall be off to
Kaiserswerth!" said Florence.
"Ah?" said Mamma, with lifted brows.
But it was not to be. Political troubles were brewing
in Germany; Mr. Nightingale thought the trip unsafe,
the plan was given up, and Parthenope and Florence
went with Mamma to Malvern.
Florence was bitterly chagrined. Kaiserswerth, Pastor
Fliedner, the deaconesses had seemed just within reach
—and then slipped once more into the realm of the unat-
Seeing the shadow in her eyes, Mr. Nightingale said
that he had no objection to Florence's spending several
months in London where she might look over the hos-
pitals and learn for herself what the nursing profession
was like. She could put up at Grandfather Smith's house,
or even in a decorous hotel; she might do a bit of chari-
table work in the Ragged Schools, those institutions
which attempted to reform and educate wayward
64 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
and destitute boys, gathered in from the London
It was a compromise, but Florence accepted. Sfye
went to London and was briefly on the teaching staff of
the Ragged Schools. Her pupils she spoke of as "my little
thieves of Westminster"; they interested her. But her
efforts at accomplishing much of good among them was
somewhat hampered by her promise to Mamma that she
would never be seen in public without an older woman
or a trusted servant to convoy her. The "little thieves"
responded to Miss Nightingale's cordiality— but they
balked when confronted by her chaperon. The pro-
prieties were against Florence.
Yet the months were profitable, for she was storing up
quantities of information on hospitals in general, and
prevailing methods of nursing. All her discoveries veri-
fied what she'd been told by the Reverend Mr. Giffard,
by Papa, Mamma, everyone. Hospitals almost without
exception were dirty, unsystematic, unsanitary, literally
pesthouses where disease ran rampant and epidemics
occurred periodically. Nurses, underpaid, recruited
from the lowest classes, were often of the charwoman
type; they could not read or write; they drank, stole,
cheated, neglected their patients.
But whose faults were these? They must be laid at
the door of a society which permitted them! They could
Florence filled notebooks with her jottings as to how
the whole lamentable situation might be revolutionized.
Her scrutiny was critical, her vision clear.
Perhaps some day she would be able to do more than
theorize. She existed only for that day.
GLIMPSE OF A MISSION
The Bracebridges were traveling again, this time to
Greece and Egypt, and nothing would do but that
Florence go with them. Only think, Selina said, of all
the hospitals they might see en route; and Charles added
that, returning, they probably would stop in Germany.
"What do you say, Florence?" asked the Bracebridges.
She said yes. Perhaps she would have said it anyway,
for the old feeling of despondency was upon her and she
was particularly displeased with the drawing-room
clock; but the word Germany had an unique sound, it
meant the magic attraction of Kaiserswerth. Maybe now
she could set foot into that land of her visioning.
So, in the autumn of 1849, Florence left Embley for
another glimpse of foreign countries, and once more
Parthe voiced the hope that her dear sister would find a
measure of peace, saying that Egypt might do for
Florence what Rome had failed to do.
Mrs. Nightingale made no comment at all. She was
almost ready to acknowledge herself baffled by the
peculiarities of her younger daughter.
As was her custom, Florence took a great many books
with her: "learned books," Parthe called them; and,
traveling, Florence bought others, which she constantly
studied, storing up a vast fund of information on myth-
66 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
ology, history and folklore. Egypt was a place of infinite
wonders; and though she must deplore the backward-
ness of its people and their system of laws, she admired
the beauty of its scenery and wrote to Parthe long let-
ters about the temples and tombs and statues. Of course,
she made the opportunity to look into any charitable
institutions seen in passing; at Alexandria she spent a
good deal of time with the nuns of St. Vincent de Paul
in their well-kept schools and the visitors' rooms of their
convents. She wrote to Parthe that there were only nine-
teen of these noble religieuses, but they did uncomplain-
ingly the work of ninety. The desert also interested
Florence; she liked going out alone to watch the sunset.
She told Parthe that she enjoyed poking her nose into
the small villages which skirted the expanses of un-
tracked sand. "I want to see how these poor people
It was April when the travelers reached Greece, and
a political crisis was in process; but this did not curtail
Florence's sight-seeing. At Athens she viewed the
Parthenon by moonlight and said that nothing earth or
heaven could produce would ever excel its loveliness.
One day in the ancient city, inside a ruined temple, she
performed a small act of mercy, rescuing a baby owl
which had fallen from its nest and been snatched up by
a party of yelling (and, Florence thought, probably
cruel) street urchins.
The Greek boys would not give their catch to the
slender Englishwoman who demanded it; but they were
willing to sell.
"A farthing," Florence said, holding out the coin. "A
farthing for the owlet?"
The boys nodded and clutched at the money. The tiny
GLIMPSE OF A MISSION 67
bird fluttered to the ground, and Florence stooped and
picked it up and put it into her pocket.
Selina Bracebridge, who had witnessed the purchase,
was amused. "What now, Florence?"
"This is Athena," Florence said, "and she is going with
us all the way. I shall take her in my pocket as a present
for Parthe, who will simply adore her."
"But you have a cicada as a traveling occupant of
your pocket," said Selina.
"Yes. I suppose Athena may eat the cicada. Well, it
will only be the consolidating of two pets in one, and
just imagine how happy Athena will be at Embley where
there are oceans of mice to be had for the hunting."
Laughing, Selina said she feared that Athena was too
much an infant to hunt as yet; but Florence, nothing
daunted, said that Mamma's butler could provide the
mice until Athena had grown old enough to feed her-
Perhaps Florence's keenest pleasure in Athens was
the time spent with American missionaries who con-
ducted a school and orphanage there. Yet this had its
depressing side, too. How worthless seemed her own
existence when contrasted with that of the women mis-
sionaries. The thought greatly vexed her, and Selina
Bracebridge felt that an attack of fever which Florence
suffered just then was largely brought on by worry over
what Florence described as her uselessness.
"Well," Selina said, "we shall soon be in Berlin; the
hospitals in the German capital will lure you from the
Florence did not reply, but thought that she wouldn't
tarry long in Berlin, however fascinating were the hos-
pitals. The distance from Berlin to Kaiserswerth was
68 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
comparatively short, and from the moment of leaving
England, Kaiserswerth had been her real destination.
July 31, a memorable day indeed, for Florence was at
last in the little Prussian town, actually entering Pastor
Fliedner's famous establishment, meeting the good man
face-to-face. She wrote in her diary: "I could hardly
believe I was there. With the feeling with which a pil-
grim first looks on the Kedron, I saw the Rhine, dearer
to me than the Nile." She was to stay a fortnight; the
question was, she thought, how best to crowd into that
brief interval all the many things she wished to learn.
Pastor Fliedner made her welcome and showed her
over his buildings which now comprised a hospital of a
hundred beds, an infant school, a penitentiary with
twelve inmates, an orphan asylum and a normal school
where school mistresses were trained. There was also the
training school for nurses, housing a hundred deacon-
esses. Florence was given a blue cotton habit and a
white apron, the deaconess' uniform which she donned
It seemed that cleanliness was the first lesson in the
Kaiserswerth course for beginners; they scrubbed the
"But you, Miss Nightingale, will not wish to scrub,"
said Pastor Fliedner, with a glance for Florence's well-
groomed white hands which had never known such hard
Certainly she wished to scrub! Fetching soap and
water, she got down on the floor and, with his eyes
humorously upon her, she wielded the heavy brush.
Finishing, she stood up, brushed her dark hair from her
forehead and waited for him to speak.
GLIMPSE OF A MISSION
"A very dirty floor, Miss Nightingale," he said, "and
you have scrubbed it until it shines."
She wielded the heavy brush
She smiled, feeling strangely close to tears, as if she
had won some knightly accolade.
A busy fortnight; and oh, such a happy one. "The
world here fills my life with interest," wrote Florence
70 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
to her mother. "We have ten minutes for each of our
meals, of which we have four. We get up at five; break-
fast a quarter before six. The patients dine at eleven;
the sisters at twelve. We drink tea, that is, a drink made
of ground rye, between two and three, and sup at seven.
Several evenings in the week we collect in the great hall
for a Bible lesson." Herr Fliedner's wisdom and knowl-
edge of human nature were, she said, inspiring. "This
is life. Now I know what it is to love life."
She did not add the thought so often in her mind-
that here birth, breeding, station were as nothing and
all that mattered was the willingness to work for others.
Had Florence Nightingale been the lowliest commoner,
Pastor Fliedner could not have accepted her presence
more calmly. The deaconesses were entirely matter-
of-fact, cool, kind, impersonal in their attitude toward
this newcomer. If there was about her some odd dis-
tinction as, in her blue and white garments, she moved
among them, they disregarded it. To them she was just
another woman wanting to help. In their humble and
self-effacing service of God, through the least of His
creatures, she found the fulfillment of a desire long
Only a fortnight of this deeply satisfying happiness—
and then she must rejoin the Bracebridges who had been
at Diisseldorf. But the riches gained could never be
taken from her, and she knew that some day she would
come back. "Left Kaiserswerth," she recorded in the
diary, "feeling so brave, as if nothing could ever vex me
With her friends she went to Ghent and in a week she
was writing out in pamphlet form her observations of
Pastor Fliedner's accomplishments. The Bracebridges
GLIMPSE OF A MISSION 71
said they would remain in Ghent until she had com-
pleted her manuscript.
"Shall you publish it, Florence?" asked Selina.
"Yes, anonymously, when I'm in England."
She had no intention of publicizing her own experi-
ences, but she wanted British readers to know about
The Institution of Kaiserswerth on the Rhine.
By the end of August she was at home.
As she had predicted, Parthe greeted the little owl
Athena with exclamations of delight, and apparently
Athena was just as enthusiastic about her new mistress
and Embley— where the butler was most obliging at
foraging for young mice.
"You have tamed Athena so nicely," said Parthe to
Florence, "that she sleeps regularly in my lap and can
balance herself on my shoulder when I walk around.
And her manners are charming!"
But a few weeks later this opinion of Athena's man-
ners had to be temporarily revised. One morning Parthe
came downstairs wearing a ruffled cap over her hair-
just an ordinary white cap, but Athena, perched on the
mantel, did not like it. With a hoarse cry and a flap of
wings, the owl darted toward Parthe, seized a ruffled
edge of the cap in her beak and twitched it off. Then
Athena retreated to the mantel, sulking.
"Oh, you naughty bird," said Parthe, laughing. "You
seem not a bit afraid of me. Perhaps you're not afraid of
But this was another opinion which had to be revised.
Some guest at Embley had given Mrs. Nightingale a
large china owl in which a lighted candle could be set,
the glow of the candle illuminating the green glass eyes
of the china figure. At her first glimpse of this imitation
72 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
of herself, Athena was resentful and frightened, and
when Parthe put her down in front of those glittering
eyes, she uttered shrieks of protest and flew away to
the protection of the darkened drawing-room.
"She is mostly very sweet-tempered, though," Parthe
said, "and I shall write her biography."
So Parthe took pen and ink and paper and started the
life story of Athena— an Owlet from the Parthenon.
Neither the author nor the subject of this lively biog-
raphy ever dreamed that the manuscript would be pre-
served as a precious exhibit in the British Museum
Library because of its connection with the life of
"I am thirty, the age at which Christ began His mis-
sion. Now no more childish things, no more vain things,
no more love, no more marriage. Now, Lord, let me only
think of Thy will/'
This and other equally serious notations in Florence's
1850 diary betrayed the period of her very worst dis-
couragement. She seemed out of tune with all her sur-
roundings, the gulf separating her from her mother and
Parthe was ever wider, and even dear Papa was dis-
turbed by her behavior, the things she said and did—
the things she could not avoid saying and doing!
She had never known a happy time, she reflected,
except at Rome and at Kaiserswerth. "It is not the un-
happiness I mind; it is not indeed; but people can't be
unhappy without making those about them so. The
thoughts and feelings that I have now I can remember
since I was six. A profession, a trade, a necessary occu-
pation, something to employ all my faculties, I have
always felt essential to me. The first thought I can
remember, and the last, was nursing work; and in the
absence of this, education work, but more the education
of the bad than of the young."
After numerous drawing-room ordeals, she wrote,
"Oh, weary days, O evenings that seem never to end!
74 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
For how many long years I have watched that clock and
thought it would never reach the ten. And for twenty or
thirty more to do this!" Occasionally she would contrive
to put forward the hands of the torturing clock, and flee
a few minutes early from the family circle. "O how am
I to get through this day," she asked herself each morn-
ing, "to talk through all this day? Why do I wish to
leave this world? God knows I do not expect a heaven
beyond, but that He would set me down in St. Giles',
at a Kaiserswerth, there to find my work and my salva-
tion in my work."
Yet in the midst of despair, she had recurrent flashes
of rebellion. "I must take some things, as few as I can,
to enable me to live. I must take them, they will not be
given me." Silently she was arming for the break which
must surely come; she would abandon hope of ever
obtaining her mother's or Parthe's understanding, but
she would try to hurt them as little as possible.
As for marriage, upon which she turned her back, she
had years ago ruled against that, and it irritated her
that Mamma, and even Papa, should still speak of it.
Florence argued that she was now too old to marry;
but Mamma said Pshaw! she herself had been thirty
when she married William Shore Nightingale, and then
she had chosen a husband six years her junior. Why,
thirty was just a good age for marrying, and there were
plenty of young bachelors who would bask in Florence's
"No," Florence said. "No, please don't think of it."
At length she convinced her father of her absolute
rejection of marriage, and with him she made a quaint
sort of compact. "If," she pointed out, "I haven't
changed my views within two more years, if at thirty-
FIRST FREEDOM 75
two I am still single, I shall deserve the same privileges
you would have granted a grown son. Won't you let me
lead then the kind of life I want?"
Rather anxiously Mr. Nightingale said he supposed so,
for he had also been listening to his sister Mai, who had
interceded in Florence's behalf. Yes, and he would
settle an allowance on his dear Flo, because she must
not feel poverty-stricken.
Florence thanked him. The compact would not be put
down on paper, she said. "But I should like to call in
Selina Bracebridge, Papa, and have her know the terms,
so that she can vouch for my freedom, if it should ever
After that, Florence somehow looked upon Papa as
an ally and talked to him of how she should train and
prepare herself for the future. Mrs. Nightingale and
Parthe were going to Carlsbad for three months— it
would be a chance, Florence said, for her to go to
"Very well," said Mr. Nightingale.
But as might have been expected, his wife was vigor-
ously opposed. Bad enough, cried Mrs. Nightingale, that
Florence should have published that pamphlet on Pastor
Fliedner's project; many Britishers had guessed its
authorship. Now if it were known that Florence was
again at Kaiserswerth, for such a long time, three whole
months, actually nursing in the hospital— what on earth
would people say? Mrs. Nightingale cared terribly what
people said, while Florence cared not at all.
"Why need anyone know, Mamma? I'll not mention
it, if you don't."
"Nothing could prevail upon me to mention it. You
think we might conceal your going from everybody?"
76 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
"Like the shameful thing it is? Yes, Mamma," replied
But concealment was a snare and a delusion, and
after Mrs. Nightingale had entrenched herself in Carls-
bad with Parthe and was drinking the waters, a letter
from Florence said that the secret was out. It was all
quite mysterious and not Florence's doing, but a few
people did know that she was at Kaiserswerth. The
Sidney Herberts, who were at Homburg, had paid her a
visit. Refusing to think that Mamma could be really
offended, Florence wrote often and lovingly of how
busy she was— "until yesterday I never had time even
to send my clothes to the wash"— of how she had taken
the convalescent boys for beautiful walks in the coun-
try; how she was strengthened in body and heart.
"I know you will be glad to hear this, dearest Mum."
Mrs. Nightingale sighed, and was not glad.
Finally Florence wrote a long letter, appealing for
her "beloved people's" sympathy.
Mrs. Nightingale was mute, having no sympathy to
"Don't fret, Mamma," said Parthe. "As well that Flo
is having this little fling; we can the sooner get her back
to Lea Hurst."
Mrs. Nightingale wrote to the Mohls in Paris that she
hoped "our dear child Florence" would be able to apply
all the fine learning she had been acquiring— "to do a
little to make us better. Parthe is much too idle to help
and too apt to be satisfied with things as they are."
This second stay at Kaiserswerth was a milestone in
Florence's life, everything which followed must be dated
from those three months. Though she went docilely
FIRST FREEDOM 77
back to the leisure of Lea Hurst and Embley, she was
bolder, much more assured, biding her time and know-
ing that she would eventually escape. Many of her
friends in London were persons of prestige and influ-
ence: George Eliot, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lady
Lovelace, who was Lord Byron's daughter. All were
impressed with her intelligence, her air of quiet compe-
tence. "An earnest, noble woman," diey called her, be-
lieving that she would some day achieve her ambitions.
Lady Lovelace wrote a poem about her, the last stanza
of which would be remembered later as an example of
"In future years, in distant climes,
Should war's dread strife its victims claim,
Should pestilence, unchecked betimes,
Strike more than sword, than cannon maim,
He who dien reads these truthful rhymes
Will trace her progress to undying fame."
In hours which would otherwise have been empty,
Florence endeavored to formulate her rather unorthodox
religious creed, writing it all out and then discussing
what she had written with Papa, who had a taste for
such self -analysis. She modestly titled these essays
Suggestions for Thought.
"Shall we have your book printed, Florence?" asked
"Not now," she said. "Perhaps in a few years I'll
print it privately."
According to the compact, she was to be permitted
at thirty-two to start on her career— the nature of which
was still vague, though certainly it would be some type
78 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
of nursing. Therefore in the summer of 1852 she told
Papa that she was going to Paris, where she would study
in various Catholic orphanages and hospitals. But her
mother had by no means sanctioned the compact, nor
had she conceded defeat.
"You cannot travel alone, Florence. That I will not
Florence said that Hilary Bonham Carter was going
with her; the two younger women would travel with
Lady Augusta Bruce, who was a lady-in-waiting to the
"Ah?" murmured Mrs. Nightingale, and for a week
or two said nothing more. But then there was news that
Florence's Great-aunt Evans was very ill. The journey
must be postponed. "You would not be disrespectful to
Great-aunt Evans, Florence?"
No, the trip would be postponed, Florence said, until
Great-aunt Evans had improved.
Mrs. Nightingale made the most of the delay. "My
dear, if you will give up Paris entirely, you may have
that little old house on your father's Derbyshire estate—
Cromford Bridge House— and convert it into a small
hospital all your own. Doesn't that tempt you?"
"No," Florence said. "A small hospital of my own is
not what I want now, Mamma. I am really going to
She went— and a letter from Mrs. Nightingale recalled
her. Grandmamma Shore was sick again at Tapton, she
begged for Florence. "You must come home and nurse
her in her last illness."
Wearily Florence returned to England, to Tapton,
It was in truth Grandmamma Shore's last illness; she
was ninety-five and after a few weeks she died.
FIRST FREEDOM 79
"You will have to assist with the funeral, Florence!"
"Yes, Mamma, I will."
She assisted with the funeral, and then repacked her
"Florence, you're not going back to France?"
Mrs. Nightingale dissolved in tears. "Oh, please, my
"I am sorry if it grieves you, but I can't change the
plan. I shall visit the Mohls in Paris. You are fond of
them. You can trust them to protect me."
Mrs. Nightingale said sadly that she had always
thought charity began at home.
In Paris again, Florence methodically set about her
study, inspecting infirmaries and convents, seeing the
work done by those of Pastor Fliedner's deaconesses
who were nursing in France. She collected reports and
statistics and compiled statistics where none had been
before; she observed Paris surgeons in their clinics, she
read case histories in medical libraries.
Every day, from morning to night, she was out, glory-
ing in her sense of liberation, of being answerable only
to herself. She was all over the city, in every nook and
cranny, scorning to take a cab, instead riding on the om-
nibuses, rubbing elbows with the commonest folk— and
how distressed Mamma would have been to know! In the
evenings she could, if she wished, attend the social func-
tions to which her host and hostess, Professor and
Madame Mohl, were constantly invited and eager to
It was in Paris, the spring of 1853, that she was offered
her first post of responsibility. The letter was from Lon-
don. At 8 Chandos Street, Cavendish Square, the Estab-
80 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
lishment for Gentlewomen during Illness, which provided
a home for sick governesses and other invalids or super-
annuated ladies of the "gentlewomen" class, was in need
of a new superintendent. Miss Nightingale had been
recommended. Would she accept?
Well, not at once. "It isn't precisely what I've wanted,"
Florence said to Madame Mohl, "but can I afford to be
"I think you should take it," said Madame Mohl.
"Yes, so do I. I shall send a letter of acceptance."
The Establishment for Gentlewomen! How vividly
Florence would remember her year there. Mr. Sidney
Herbert was on the board, probably it was he who had
proposed Florence's name— and had all the other board
members been as level-headed as was Mr. Herbert, the
new superintendent might have been spared much quib-
bling. But, alas, Florence found herself saddled with a
committee of directors, most of whom were ladies of
wealth and exalted rank looking jealously on their pet
charity and suspiciously at Miss Nightingale.
"The Society of Fashionable Asses." That was the nick-
name Florence had for the committee; and in letters to
Madame Mohl she told, with the sharpness and sarcasm
which often tinged her pen, how she coped with them,
skirmishing to get the upper hand.
"If you knew what the 'fashionable asses' have been
doing, their 'offs' and their 'ons,' poor fools! There are no
surgeon students nor improper patients at all, which is,
of course, a great recommendation in the eyes of the
Proper. The patients, or rather the Impatients, for I know
what it is to nurse sick ladies, are all pay patients, poor
friendless folk in London. I am to have the choosing of
the house, the appointment of the Chaplain and the man-
FIRST FREEDOM 81
agement of the funds as the F. S. A. are at present
minded. But Isaiah himself could not prophesy how they
will be minded at 8 o'clock this evening."
"The choosing of the house?" That meant the imme-
diate moving of the institution from Chandos Street to
Harley Street, and was an initial victory for Florence,
who had insisted upon enlarged quarters. In ten days she
accomplished die tremendous undertaking. But once in-
stalled at the Harley Street address, she faced other
problems which bobbed up with astonishing rapidity.
A nursing home, Florence said, must have modem
conveniences, such as bells ringing to summon the
nurses, and an elevator, "a lift, in order that the nurse
might not be merely a pair of legs." The committee had
to be persuaded to these innovations, for there had been
no bells or lift in Chandos Street.
Then Florence said that the rule forbidding the super-
intendent to walk with the doctors on their rounds must
be revoked. Since she had been hired to assume full
charge of the building, she would demand access to every
part of it— yes, even to the operating room when surgery
was in progress. The ladies of the committee were hor-
rified. Only after debate would they assent, and then
But the knottiest problem concerned religion. The in-
stitution was Protestant, always had been, and must re-
main so. No Catholic patients, said the committee, could
Miss Nightingale was instantly resentful. If that was
the spirit of the place, she would have nothing to do with
it— nothing! She would politely wish the committee good
morning and withdraw. This issue was threshed out at
prodigious length, while Florence stood firm.
Finally the committee agreed to lower the bars to
"I shall take in Jews too," said Florence, who had no
tolerance for any intolerance.
The committee bowed to her imperious edict
The committee groaned. "Not Jews?"
"Yes," said Florence, never budging an inch.
The committee bowed to her imperious edict.
FIRST FREEDOM 83
Though frequently irritated, the new superintendent
could laugh at her troubles. She seemed to have become
a buffer between the "fashionable asses" and the staff of
doctors— and out of favor with them all. But she learned
to manipulate these factions, cleverly posing them one
against the other, putting ideas into their heads, words
into their mouths, and then letting them think that the
ideas and the words had originated with themselves.
So, with somewhat the wiliness of the politician, she
got things done, reducing friction to a minimum and
seeking no credit or praise. The institution soon ran
smoothly, and the inmates loved their efficient Miss
Florence often wrote to her father, telling him of her
work; at his request, she sent die letters to Mr. Night-
ingale's London club. She did not correspond with her
mother or Parthe, for the fact was that relations with
them were more strained than ever. Mrs. Nightingale had
hated the thought of Flo's being a superintendent— it was
really dreadful! But if Florence just would be so queer,
at least she could live with her family when the Night-
ingales came to London for the season. How much more
comfortable she would be in a nice hotel than in that old
asylum, or whatever it was.
Florence said no. At long, long last she was independ-
ent; the break she had made was "not likely to be
repented of or reconsidered."
"But will you not come to Lea Hurst for a vacation
this summer, Flo?" implored Parthe.
Florence said yes, and went for a few days in August,
cutting short her holiday because of hearing that an
epidemic of cholera threatened London. Hastening back
to Harley Street, she looked out not only for her gover-
84 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
nesses but also for many cholera patients in the Middle-
sex Hospital. The epidemic subsided in the early autumn
—and then it was that the interest of all London, and all
England, and a great portion of the wide world centered
suddenly upon incidents of the Crimean War, and Flor-
ence Nightingale heard the call of her particular and
THE CALL TO SERVICE
The war was one which most observers (and eminent
English historians among them ) would have great diffi-
culty explaining and justifying. The surface cause was
Russia's policy of expansion and the wish of England to
join with France in preventing the further encroachment
of the Czar's armies upon Turkish territory. But the hid-
den and real cause was the age-old fear of nations that
another nation may surpass it in power and conquest. In
1853 Russia had mobilized and occupied the portion of
Turkey lying north of the Danube River; Russia had
attacked and destroyed a Turkish squadron— very dar-
ingly, within sight of French and British warships sta-
tioned in the Bosporus. These acts seemed a challenge
which England and France must answer with a declara-
tion of war.
The campaigns which followed, on land and sea, were
notable chiefly for their lack of military skill, the blunder-
ing of officials, the senseless sacrifice of troops and, finally,
a peace in which it was realized that little of worth had
Early in 1854, to defend Turkey, England and France
had dispatched an expeditionary force to Varna, a port
on the Black Sea, fifty-seven thousand men, the largest
body of troops ever sent to do battle on foreign soil.
86 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
When Russia saw this force, she edged away, dodging
the fight. At about the same time, it became evident that
the English and French soldiers must not be left at Varna
because cholera raged there. Then the defending armies
were somehow obliged to attack, instead. An invasion of
the Crimean peninsula was decided upon, and Lord
Raglan went out from England to command the Queen's
The first major engagement of the war was the Battle
of Alma, which occurred September 20, 1854, six days
after the landing of the British and French in the Crimea,
and it was the result of this battle which so abruptly
shocked England to what was happening in that far-off
area— where, until now, things had seemed so slow, so
uneventful and almost dull. Her Majesty's troops had
been victorious; that is, they had fought with their usual
brilliance and had taken their objective— but at a terrible
cost! Even while England exulted in news of the triumph,
the casualty lists began to arrive. So many brave men
killed or wounded! Even worse were the reports of sol-
diers dying out there, dying by the hundreds, dying of
neglect, because proper care was denied them, because
medical supplies, good food, doctors and nurses had not
been provided in sufficient amount— had, in fact, scarcely
been provided at all!
William Howard Russell had gone to the Crimea as
"special correspondent" for the London Times. He was
an able newspaperman, his present mission was a novel
one, for until he undertook the task, a "special corre-
spondent" with an army in the field was a thing un-
known. Mr. Russell with his own eyes had seen the
Battle of Alma and its sad aftermath of needless suffer-
ing; he wrote back uncensored letters to the Times, which
THE CALL TO SERVICE
when printed made the country gasp with horror and
"It is with feelings of surprise and anger that the public
will learn that no sufficient preparations have been made
— ^- ^- r ff •* /> r
Soldiers were dying of neglect
for the proper care of the wounded," wrote Mr. Russell.
"Not only are there not sufficient surgeons— that, it might
be urged, was unavoidable; not only are there no dressers
and nurses— that might be a defect of system for which
no one is to blame; but what will be said when it is
88 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
known that there is not even linen to make bandages for
The Turks had turned over to the British a huge build-
ing in Scutari, which was a suburb of Constantinople, a
building called the Barrack Hospital and here the
wounded were being housed— as many of them, anyway,
as survived the voyage from the Crimea to Turkey. But,
mostly, the wounded died during the three hundred mile
trip across the Black Sea, "expiring in agony," Mr. Rus-
sell said, "unheeded and shaken off, though catching
desperately at the surgeon whenever he makes his rounds
through the fetid ship." Those who lived to reach Scutari
and the Barrack Hospital found themselves, with week-
old wounds never touched by the hand of a medical man,
shunted rudely into a cold, bare, echoing place where,
as Mr. Russell said, "the commonest appliances of a
workhouse sick ward are wanting," where "the men must
die through the medical staff of the British army having
forgotten that old rags are necessary for the dressing of
Mr. Russell had not misjudged the reaction of his pub-
lic. His letters, appearing every day, were sensational,
instantly arousing a storm of questions as to why these
conditions prevailed. No nurses? Well, only a handful of
very old pensioners, feeble old fellows who had been sent
as an "ambulance corps," and were so far past the age
for usefulness that they died themselves or fell sick and
needed nursing. No hospital supplies? None, said Mr.
Russell emphatically. "For all I can observe, these men
die without the least effort being made to save them.
There they lie, just as they were let down on the ground
by their poor comrades, who brought them on their backs
from the camp with the greatest tenderness, but who are
THE CALL TO SERVICE 89
not allowed to remain with them. The sick seem to be
tended by the sick, and the dying by the dying."
Amid general indignation and excitement on the part
of his readers, Mr. Russell's letters continued, "It is now
pouring rain, the skies are black as ink, the wind is howl-
ing. Our men have not either warm or waterproof cloth-
ing . . . not a soul seems to care for their comfort, or
even for their lives. These are hard truths, but the people
of England must hear them. They must know that the
wretched beggar who wanders about the streets of Lon-
don leads the life of a prince compared with the British
soldiers who are fighting out here for their country."
Of course, something must be done! At once! But
Mr. Russell drew a sharp contrast between his govern-
ment and the French, "Their medical arrangements are
extremely good, their surgeons more numerous, and they
have the help of the Sisters of Charity who have accom-
panied the expedition. These devoted women are excel-
Well, why had not England some Sisters of Charity?
The question had its first public asking in the Times of
October 14. "There are numbers of ablebodied and ten-
der-hearted Englishwomen who would joyfully and with
alacrity go out to devote themselves to nursing the sick
and wounded if they could be associated for that purpose
and placed under proper protection." Once thrust for-
ward, the query resounded the length and breadth of the
British Isles. "If nurses are needed, why cant we send
Then, in the minds of a few persons, a more explicit
suggestion stirred. Henry Edward Manning (afterward
Cardinal) wrote to the Bishop of Southwark to see if any
90 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
sisters could be found for the East. "Why," said he, "will
not Florence Nightingale give herself to this great work?"
Already Lady Maria Forester had spoken to Miss Night-
ingale, if she would take out three nurses to Scutari, Lady
Maria would pay all expenses of the group.
Perhaps Florence had been the very first to entertain
this wonderful idea. After the most serious thought for
the practical angles involved, she wrote from Harley
Street on October 14 to Mrs. Sidney Herbert, her intimate
friend whom she addressed as "My dearest," expressing
her wish to go to Turkey, requesting Mrs. Herbert to lay
the matter before her husband. There would be, Florence
knew, many details to be smoothed out, permissions,
grants of authority, official consents and credentials to be
obtained— but she was anxious, indeed determined, to
go, whether sponsored by the government or as a private
agent, because "I do believe that we may be of use to
the wounded wretches."
This letter to Elizabeth Herbert crossed in the mails a
letter which Sidney Herbert had posted to Florence from
Bournemouth, October 15, where he was spending the
Sunday. Knowing nothing of Florence's inclinations, but
pondering deeply, Mr. Herbert had come to the conclu-
sion that there was just one way to remedy the lamentable
situation. Nurses must be sent, they must be strictly
supervised and directed— and Miss Nightingale was the
only person in England who would be capable of organ-
izing and superintending such a scheme.
His letter was very long and reasoned, for he had
deliberated over every phase of it. He was quite aware
that what he asked was amazing, even revolutionary—
"none but male nurses having ever been admitted to mili-
tary hospitals." He felt that Mr. Russell's stories were
THE CALL TO SERVICE 91
perhaps a bit exaggerated, for medical stores had been
shipped to the Crimea in profusion, "by the ton weight;"
and doctors had gone in the proportion of one to every
ninety-five men. As to what had become of these tons of
stores, these doctors, he could not surmise, but he was
hopeful of their arrival. Still, the crying need was for
"I do not say one word to press you. You can judge for
yourself which of conflicting or incompatible duties is the
first, or the highest; but I must not conceal from you that
I think upon your decision will depend the ultimate suc-
cess or failure of the plan. Your own personal qualities,
your knowledge and your power of administration, and
among greater things your rank and position in Society
give you the advantages in such a work which no other
The government, Mr. Herbert said, would stanchly
co-operate, the entire medical staff would be sworn to
fullest assistance, everything requisite to the mission
would be furnished in unlimited abundance. "I know
you will come to a wise decision. God grant it may be in
accordance with my hopes!"
Florence received Sidney Herbert's letter one day and,
so swiftly did events trend, the very next day it was pro-
claimed from the War Office that Miss Nightingale, "a
lady with greater practical experience of hospital admin-
istration and treatment than any other lady in the coun-
try," had been appointed by the Government as Superin-
tendent of Nurses at Scutari, and had begun her work of
organization as a preface to sailing for Turkey.
"Who is Florence Nightingale?"
That was now the question. Through the years, through
92 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
the prominence of her family, Florence had made a wide
circle of friends, but she had never been a public figure.
Overnight she had become the most talked-of person in
England, the focus for national attention, her name on
"Who is she? Tell us something about our heroine!"
Well, the newspapers could do that, and they got their
information from the most reliable sources— from Mrs.
Nightingale and from Parthe. Suddenly all conflict and
stress in what had been at best an unsatisfactory relation-
ship was forgotten; with pride Mamma and Parthe had
spoken of the honor bestowed upon Florence, and had
even displayed the War Office's letter to inquiring re-
porters. Mamma declared that she and Mr. Nightingale
were ducks who had miraculously hatched a swan. Parthe
said of dear Flo that "the way in which all things have
tended to and fitted her for this is so very remarkable
that one cannot but believe she was intended for it."
The Examiner and then the Times printed articles.
Miss Nightingale was "a young lady of singular endow-
ments, both natural and acquired. In a knowledge of the
ancient languages and of the higher branches of mathe-
matics, in general art, science and literature, her attain-
ments are extraordinary. There is scarcely a modern
language which she does not understand, and she speaks
French, German and Italian as fluently as her native Eng-
lish. She has visited and studied all the various nations
of Europe and has ascended the Nile to its remotest
cataract. Young ( about the age of our Queen ) , graceful,
feminine, rich, popular, she holds a singularly gentle and
persuasive influence over all with whom she comes in
contact. Her friends and acquaintances are of all classes
and persuasions, but her happiest place is at home, in the
THE CALL TO SERVICE 93
centre of a very large band of accomplished relatives,
and in simplest obedience to her admiring parents."
Florence, if she read the articles, must have smiled
rather ironically. Her happiest place at home? Her sim-
ple obedience to admiring parents? Picturesque, yes; but
hardly exact. The newspapers, in a well-meant flood of
enthusiasm, persisted in dwelling upon the sacrifice made
by this charming and sensitive young lady, with her
background of exalted birth and breeding, how she was
forsaking assemblies, lectures, concerts, exhibitions and
all the social pleasures of taste and intellect to which she
was accustomed. Sacrifice? Absurd! thought Florence.
The only thing in life she had ever desired was service of
just the kind which was now at hand. It was what a little
girl in the chapel at Lea Hurst had dreamed of, it was the
very stuff of dreams and long suppressed yearnings.
It was opportunity— at last! And she had seized it!
JOURNEY AND ARRIVAL
"The selection of nurses, the finding of women equal
to a task full of horrors and requiring, besides knowledge
and good will, great energy and great courage, will be
very difficult," Sidney Herbert had said to Florence.
He was quite right. There were but a few days for this
business; even in the moment of her appointment Flor-
ence had shouldered a tremendous burden.
Her temporary headquarters were at Mr. Herbert's
house, 49 Belgrave Square. An appeal for volunteers had
gone forth, and here Florence interviewed all applicants.
She was aided by Mrs. Bracebridge and another friend,
Miss Mary Stanley; and often Parthe was present, sorting
and packaging the vast quantities of knitted socks and
shirts, the linen for bandages, which poured in from con-
tributors throughout the Kingdom.
Parthe marveled at her sister's restrained manner. "In
the midst of all this furious tumult and haste, you are
calm as a May morning, Flo! You behave as if you were
going, not to war, but just out for a walk in the park!"
Florence smiled. "What is there to be perturbed
"Well, the War Office, the Military Medical Board,
and half the nurses in London are waiting their turn to
consult with you."
"Everything is moving nicely though, Pop— thanks to
JOURNEY AND ARRIVAL 95
my helpers. And everyone is so kind, rallying to a na-
tional emergency ."
"Rallying to you" said Parthe generously. "Because
you have fired the public's imagination as it never was
Florence would have had to be much less clever than
she was, not to see truth in this statement, and her heart
was touched by the loyalty she encountered everywhere.
Mr. and Mrs. Herbert were unwavering in her support;
the Bracebridges had said they were going to Scutari,
too; Uncle Sam Smith declared he would go as far as
Marseilles; Aunt Mai had promised to respond to any
demand Florence might make upon her time and effort.
The people in the London streets were positive that Miss
Nightingale was a saint who would soon have all the
wounded British soldiers up and on their feet again.
Nothing was too good for Miss Nightingale! Nodiing was
Florence had thought of taking nineteen nurses with
her, a party of twenty in all; but Mr. Herbert said there
should be more. Forty was the number agreed upon, and
now Florence must enroll them. She did not lack mate-
rial; as Parthe had said, half the nurses in London seemed
to be clamoring at the gates, besides scores of other
women who had never before in their lives given a
thought to nursing. But much of this material fell short
of the standards Florence had set; the applicants must
be carefully examined and weeded out, for she would
have only the best.
In a small, quiet room of Mr. Herbert's house, she
talked long and gravely with each volunteer.
"If," said Miss Mary Stanley, "anybody is disposed to
criticize the nurses Florence accepts, I wish that person
96 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
could see those she turns away. I didn't know there were
such women! Money is what they're after, the only in-
ducement. Just one has said she wanted to go because of
a noble motive."
Parthe's comment was that Florence would choose
well. "She'll not be concerned about their religions or
their stations in society. Roman Catholics, Anglicans,
Presbyterians— they are all the same to her; and she
would every bit as soon have women of the laboring class
as a lot of duchesses. What she desires is a group includ-
ing all shades of opinion— just so the members will work
together harmoniously and love God."
Meanwhile, Florence was not signing on her list the
names of any duchesses; and several of the names
sounded, and were, distinctly commonplace. When she
found that further investigation would be but a waste of
time, she notified Mr. Herbert of the list's closing. She
had thirty-eight nurses and would see no more volun-
teers. For the most part, the thirty-eight were profes-
sionals, either Roman Catholics or Anglican nuns who
were trained for their task.
Special Correspondent Russell had not ceased to send
in his pitiful stories of the situation at Scutari, which
seemed to go from bad to worse, and Florence felt that
delay would be fatal. She had her own light luggage
assembled, the Bracebridges and Mr. Sam Smith were
ready, the accepted nurses anxious to be off. On October
21, the War Office announced that Miss Nightingale and
her party would start that evening from London and
would sail October 27 from Marseilles on the Vectis.
Only a few people came to bid the expedition farewell.
Mamma and Papa were there, Parthe, the Herberts, a
dozen or so of Florence's dearest friends. A still, cool
JOURNEY AND ARRIVAL 97
autumn night, and everyone rather silent, eyes fixed on
the expedition's leader, who stood tall, dignified and self-
confident, well-groomed and dressed with simple ele-
gance. As the train whistled a warning and good-byes
were said, Florence kissed her parents and her sister and
climbed aboard. She shed no tears, but smiled and waved
her gloved hand.
She was very happy.
Mr. Sam Smith, writing home, said it probably was to
be expected that confusions should arise, many arrange-
ments be made "to keep forty in good humour." But Flo
was most diplomatic with her flock. "She bears all won-
derfully, winning everybody." Wherever she appeared,
said Mr. Smidi, there was nothing but admiration from
high and low; the nurses already were quite in love with
her and, because of her, were liking the journey.
When the steam packet on which they crossed the
Channel came into the Boulogne harbor on the morning
of October 22, the quay was thronged, for rumor of Miss
Nightingale and her nurses had reached France and the
populace of Boulogne wished to see and greet them. The
scene was one of noise and gay color, and as Florence
stepped ashore, she was surrounded by peasantwomen
wearing crimson petticoats, bright kerchiefs and snowy
caps like white-winged birds.
"Welcome, welcome, les soeurs anglaisesr
In a frenzy of excitement and joy, they surged for-
ward, cheering these brave souls who were going out, as
their own nurses had done, to a mission of mercy. Then
other figures, husky, black-coated, yet feminine were
pushing toward the travelers, snatching up the English
bags, boxes and trunks, which they carried up the slope.
98 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
The women porters of Boulogne, and refusing to let Flor-
ence pay them, spurning almost with violence the fee she
held out to them. "Non! You owe nothing. Vive les
Peasants and porters in attendance, the English party
went to a hotel, where the landlord, the waitresses and
chambermaids would not be paid or tipped, and the
cheering was unabated. When the train left for Paris,
Florence looked from her window at the grinning, ges-
"Au 'voir! Godspeed!"
There was a brief rest at Paris, then on to Marseilles.
Florence purchased a great amount of stores in the
French port. Though Sidney Herbert thought surely the
supplies sent out from London would now be waiting at
Constantinople, and though Dr. Andrew Smith, head of
the Army Medical Department had said stoutly (and a
little angrily ) that the troops at Scutari lacked for noth-
ing—nothing at all!— Florence had her doubts. Better to
be on- the safe side; and she had money with which to
buy the things, food, beds, blankets, mattresses, med-
icines; her own money and sums donated by many
The Vectis sailed as scheduled, October 27. It was a
small, old-fashioned, uncomfortable vessel, but sea-
worthy, riding out storms, plowing doggedly through
mountainous waves. Only a half-dozen of Florence's
nurses had ever voyaged before; everybody else was
frightened and seasick. Florence herself, normally a good
sailor, felt none too well. In a letter to her parents and
Parthe ("Dearest People") she told of her relief when,
November 4, the ship dropped anchor at Constantinople:
JOURNEY AND ARRIVAL 99
"At six o'clock yesterday I staggered on deck to look
at the plains of Troy, the tomb of Achilles, the mouths of
the Scamander, the little harbour of Tenedos, between
which and the main shore our Vectis, with stewards'
cabins and galley torn away, blustering, creaking, shriek-
ing, rushed on her way. We reached Constantinople this
morn in a thick and heavy rain. Bad news from Bala-
clava. You will hear the awful wreck of our poor cavalry,
four hundred wounded, arriving at this moment for us to
nurse. (Later) Just starting for Scutari. We are to be
housed in the hospital this very afternoon. Everybody is
most kind. The wounded are, I believe, to be placed
under our care. They are landing them now."
Finishing her letter, Florence went up again on deck,
standing at the rail, scanning all that was visible of Con-
stantinople. The harbor, known as the Golden Horn, was
long and narrow, with the city curled around it, a city so
large that it overflowed in three directions. Here, on
twin banks of the Horn, were Stamboul and Galata; vast,
uneven expanses of roofs and spires and minarets which
thrust upward through the clinging gray mist of a chill,
wet day. There, facing the Bosporus, lay Scutari, the
Silver City which the Greeks had venerated, studded and
wreathed with cypress trees, surmounted by domed hills;
and, topping the tallest hill, the immense yellow quad-
rangle of the Barrack Hospital, with its square towers on
Gazing at that distant splotch of yellow among the
hazy, drifting curtains of the mist, Florence thought of
it as her domain, her sphere, toward which God had
shown her the long, devious path. She was not afraid-
no, her spirit did not falter, but was invincible as a blade
of polished steel.
100 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
They were still landing the Balaclava wounded, a sor-
rowful procession straggling past below the rail of the
Vectis. The world knew now what that battle had been.
The British attack upon the Russians' impregnable
fortifications at Sevastopol, the charge of the Light Cav-
alry Brigade. With incredible gallantry, with the most
foolhardy judgment, the Brigade had struck full-tilt, rid-
ing straight at the Russian artillery which was lined up,
waiting, cannon yawning— and plenty of ammunition.
The episode was as spectacular and fantastic as any ever
to be chronicled in English military annals. It was an in-
trepid mass suicide which Alfred, Lord Tennyson would
celebrate in verse. The Brigade had galloped, the Russian
guns boomed— the Light Cavalry was slashed to ribbons,
crushed, reduced to this litter of broken bodies carried
on canvas stretchers.
"Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well;
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell,
Rode the six hundred/'
Florence turned from her thoughts of Balaclava's im-
mortal slaughter. One of the younger nurses was behind
her, a girl with pink cheeks and eager eyes.
"Miss Nightingale, when we do disembark, I hope
there won't be any more waiting around. I hope we can
go right to our work of tending those poor fellows."
"The strongest of you," Florence said grimly, "will be
wanted at the washtub." (They must realize, she added
to herself, that no sentimentalism, no romantic nonsense
would soften the work. It would be hard, bitterly hard. )
JOURNEY AND ARRIVAL
Another hour, and the English party was put ashore to
walk the steep quarter-mile road to the hospital. Miss
Nightingale went first, marching into the building's cen-
"The English nurse has come'
tral courtyard which was so gigantic that twelve thou-
sand men had been known to drill there at one time. Just
through the doorway, she stopped.
The courtyard held such filth as could not have been
imagined, the rotting carcass of an army mule, piles of
102 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
amputated human arms and legs flung out the windows
onto the pavement, which ran with blood.
Florence stopped— and called to a soldier orderly.
"This debris must be hauled away and buried."
The orderly paused, detecting a tone of command.
"This courtyard must be cleaned, the pavement
Y-yes, ma am.
On a cot inside the entrance, Sir Alexander Montgom-
ery Moore, a British officer, had been trying to sleep and
forget his aching wounds. The voices in the courtyard
had wakened him.
"I think," said Sir Alexander to his nearest neighbor,
"that the English nurse has come/*
The neighbor nodded a head swathed with dirty rags.
"It's Miss Florence Nightingale. She has come."
A LADY WITH A LAMP
Florence opened the door and stepped out upon the
upper gallery which stretched along three sides of the
She stepped out upon the upper gallery
104 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
building. She set down her lamp in the shelter of a pillar
and pulled up the hood of her cape. The night was black,
the sky mantled with low-hanging clouds pricked by an
occasional star. The air was fresh and moist; she breathed
it deeply and gratefully.
What a day this had been! Well, now it was behind
her; there would be a meager interval to sleep— if she
could. Then another day just as gruelling. She had no
illusions about the days. She would have to take them as
they came, one at a time, and do her best with them.
Neither had she illusions about the hospital. Rather,
the two hospitals, for she had found that the General
Hospital in Constantinople was also to be under her
supervision. She must assign a few of her small nursing
band to the General. She herself would stay here at the
Barrack, keeping with her the more experienced women.
Mrs. Drake was certainly a treasure, and Mrs. Roberts
worth her weight in gold!
The Barrack, she knew now, after exploration, was
simply that— a barrack, transformed to a hospital merely
by the slapping on of a coat of whitewash. Its maximum
capacity was 2,434 human beings and Balaclava had
crowded it to the guards. Beneath these imposing yellow
walls were cesspools and open sewers. The plumbing
was woefully deficient— in fact, there was scarcely any
plumbing at all, and no proper ventilation. The foulness
of the interior atmosphere defied description— such a con-
glomeration of horrid smells! Rats and mice lived in the
halls, vermin in the defective flooring. Yes, vermin
It was to this terrible place that soldiers, wounded in
battle, were brought after a week-long voyage of neglect
and suffering. Here they were unloaded, their garments
A LADY WITH A LAMP 105
stiff with drying gore, unloaded without ceremony, car-
ried in and deposited, as if they had no more life in them
than had that carcass of the army mule; most of them
were laid on the bare floor because the few beds were
Wryly smiling, Florence remembered Sidney Herbert's
vain hope that supplies would have arrived— and Dr.
Andrew Smith's positive statement that nothing was
wanting at Scutari.
Nothing? Florence could have made quite a memoran-
dum of what was wanting. Hospital furniture, to start
with, even the most ordinary and necessary pieces of
furniture; beds, tables, chairs. After that, basins, buckets
for water, soap, towels; and some candlesticks instead of
the empty beer bottles now in use. Mattresses— oh, how
she wished for mattresses! Mops, brooms, disinfectants,
scrubbing brushes. "Scrub this courtyard," she had told
the orderly. But there was not a scrubbing brush to be
had anywhere. Not one. "I shall write to London for
three hundred brushes," she thought. "It is not too many.
Later I shall ask for more."
What about knives, forks, spoons, clean linen, hospital
clothing? These men had no nightgowns. None at all.
They lay in their dirty underwear and shirts, garments
which were never washed. "Isn't clothing ever laun-
dered?" she had demanded.
"Well," someone had said, "it is— at the rate of six
shirts a month."
"You mean, six shirts a month for each man?"
"Oh, no, six shirts for all the men."
Hundreds, thousands of sick and dying men, and a
monthly laundry of six shirts!
What about cotton, gauze, new bandages— bedpans?
106 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
Florence would have liked to present Dr. Smith with
her memorandum of essentials, things needed now, just
on the most cursory inspection, because you cannot man-
age a hospital without such things.
"Tomorrow," she said to herself, "I shall have the sup-
plies I bought in Marseilles. How I wish I'd bought twice,
ten times, as much! But, at least, tomorrow I shall have
She thought back over the day, from the moment in
which she had entered here. What had she done? First,
there had been the parceling out of quarters, a vexing
business because, though the Barrack was so large, it was
now so full. One room, more spacious than the rest, was
given to all the non-sectarian nurses as a dormitory; one
medium-sized room was shared by the ten Roman Catho-
lic nuns; the eight Anglican sisters had a somewhat
smaller room. Something very small indeed, a cubby-
hole, Florence had kept for herself and Mrs. Bracebridge.
Charles Bracebridge and a young man who acted as Miss
Nightingale's courier would sleep on divans in what was
called the "sitting-room."
It did not really matter, Florence thought, if the mem-
bers of her party were cramped and uncomfortable;
they would be seldom in their rooms. But she was dis-
tressed for another reason. In the wards and the corri-
dors, fever patients were thrown together with men who
had not yet caught the fever.
"There should be separate areas for contagious cases.
I shall rent a house somewhere nearby and move the
fever patients into it."
This she would do with her own money. Silently she
thanked Papa for the liberal allowance he had settled
upon her; it would make possible many things which
A LADY WITH A LAMP 107
otherwise would have been impossible. Conceivably, her
allowance from Papa might save many lives.
When the nurses had put down bags and boxes in their
rooms, and changed into their uniforms and aprons,
Miss Nightingale took them into the kitchen to prepare
food for the sick men, some of whom were almost dead
of starvation. The kitchen was equipped with huge ket-
tles for boiling meat and vegetables; but no meat or
vegetables were in the larder. There was very little food-
stuff to cook that day. Well, a good store had been pur-
chased in Marseilles and soon would be delivered from
the harbour, and even now quantities of tea, rice, arrow-
root, jellies for invalid diet were available— these Florence
had brought in her luggage, never letting them get
After the patients were fed, the routine of wound-
dressing began. Forty-five doctors comprised the med-
ical staff, working in shifts, but the dressings to be done
were unnumbered. Following after one of the surgeons,
Florence herself attended to sixty-two patients, and then
went from ward to ward, supervising, directing her sub-
ordinates. The surgeons were, as usual, amputating— not
in a surgery or operating room; there was no such thing—
but right out in the corridors, in plain view of everybody.
"I shall get a screen for this," Florence thought. "We
must have a screen. The poor fellow who is to be oper-
ated on next is not helped by seeing his comrade die
under the knife."
Soon, whenever she had an hour, she must write out
some rules for the nurses. She intended that they must
be strictly disciplined, for without discipline the best
results could not be attained. The nurses must recognize
and defer to her authority. She was their leader and she
108 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
would be obeyed. But to enforce discipline, she would
have to retain their affection and respect. They trusted
her now; she must never do anything to lose their trust.
She hoped, too, to impress the doctors with her author-
ity. Most of them she had liked in the first meeting. Most
of them, she said to herself, were angels. A few were
devils, heavy-handed men insensitive to the anguish of
their patients. But all, she knew, were looking skeptically
at Miss Nightingale, wondering what sort of person she
was. It was an experiment, this admitting of women to a
military hospital. She must convince them that it was a
There would be, she feared, some whom she could
never convince, hidebound cynics, prejudiced medical
men who would think of her as the rankest interloper and
cry out against a government which would allow such
absurdity— who might even be jealous of the Lady-in-
Chief, which was the title Mr. Sidney Herbert had con-
ferred upon her. But these reactionaries she must learn
The night was darker now, every star obscured, rain
was falling and the wind tugged at her skirts. She picked
up the lamp and holding it before her, shielding the
glow with her hand, she went through the door into the
corridor, walking very softly and cautiously, making her
way between the rows of huddled forms lying on the
floor, seeing her shadow, tall and distorted, moving
along the wall.
At the far end of the corridor, a young corporal,
scarcely more than a boy, startled up from fitful napping
and the incessant pain which had made him delirious.
His eyes widened, and he lifted his battered body,
propped himself on an elbow, staring incredulous.
A LADY WITH A LAMP 109
"What— what's that?" he muttered hoarsely. "Why, it's
a lady! A lady with a lamp!"
Then, strangely solaced, he slumped down again and
The battle of Inkerman occurred November 5, 1854.
In all the years which followed, the date would stand
forth clearly in Florence Nightingale's memory because
of what it had meant to her that year, at Scutari. Scarcely
had she established the beginnings of some sort of rou-
tine, scarcely had she made a plan, when all was swept
away with the influx of new patients.
There was but a half -hour's notice. "Get ready! More
wounded are coming!" Then they were being borne in,
five hundred and ten poor creatures, fallen before the
It was a time of frantic hurrying in the Barrack's cor-
ridors. Except for the Lady-in-Chief's poise, it would
have been pandemonium. She refused to be dismayed.
Did it seem that these men could not be accommodated?
Well, they must be accommodated. Within eight hours,
more than five hundred mattresses had somehow been
pieced together, stuffed with straw, sewed up and placed
on the floor; the men lying on the mattresses had been
washed, their wounds had been dressed.
"A miracle!" said one of the nurses to Miss Nightingale.
"We couldn't have done better in a London hospital."
Florence shrugged. "My opinion of London hospitals
has never been high, but the worst of them is a garden
of flowers compared to this."
CRIMEAN DAYS 1U
Beneath an outward calm, she was worried, knowing
that the voyage from the battle site, over unusually rough
seas, had been a nightmare for the injured. The Turkish
soldiers delegated as stretcher-bearers seemed needlessly
callous and unfeeling— "the Turks, the very men for
whom we are fighting!" Twenty-four of the wounded
died during the day of their arrival. Dysentery, an im-
placable foe, had appeared in several of die wards.
Next day the surgeons performed hundreds of opera-
tions—for which no anesthetic was given. Though Sir
John Hall, principal medical officer of the British Crimean
forces, knew of this drug, its use was still in the experi-
mental stages, and he did not favor it in cases of severe
shock from gunshot wounds. Few men so disabled could
survive the after-effects of chloroform, he said, and he
would not risk losing patients in that way. Assisting the
surgeons, Florence was astonished at the unshrinking
heroism of the men. "It is really superhuman. We are
steeped up to our necks in blood, yet they die or are cut
up without a complaint!"
She wrote to a London acquaintance, "We have now
four miles of beds, and not eighteen inches apart."
Yet at the end of that second day, she could reflect
upon the good to be found even in the midst of appalling
horrors. "I can truly say, like St. Peter, 'It is good for us
to be here'— though I doubt whether if St. Peter had
been here, he would have said so." Going her nightly
rounds, she heard no groans, no murmurs of protest.
Stoically, the men looked up at her, some of them smiled.
"I was dreaming of my friends at home, ma'am." "I was
dreaming of my mother."
The third day was a little bit easier and again Florence
felt that she might eventually get the situation under
112 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
control. But then the Andes made port with a ghastly
The courier brought the word. "Five hundred and
forty casualties. And two more ships loading at the
Could they be housed in the Barrack? Yes, Florence
said, there or in the General Hospital. "Let no soldier be
told that we cannot take him in."
"But some Russian wounded are among the lot."
"We'll take in the Russians, too."
A dreadful pouring-in of shattered, mutilated men
from the Andes, the other two vessels! Too many to be
cared for, the doctors said; the more hopeful cases would
have to be separated from those which seemed desper-
ate. This weeding-out process was not to Miss Nightin-
gale's liking. A life was a life; so long as a single breath
animated a body, no effort should be spared.
"The five poor fellows lying in that corner, Sir John-
can nothing be done for them?"
"Nothing, I fear."
"May I try?"
"Certainly. Try, if you will. It is futility."
She tried. Through the bleak hours between midnight
and dawn, she worked over the five, feeding them with a
spoon, bathing them, praying that they might gain a little
strength. In the morning the surgeon examined them.
"They are in fair shape to be operated upon now."
"No longer hopeless cases?"
The surgeon shook his head. "I believe they may be
There were additional troubles with which she must
struggle. A tower room adjoining the nurses' quarters
had been fitted up as an "extra diet kitchen," but daily
CRIMEAN DAYS 113
the cook in charge reported that he had no foodstuffs
beyond those Miss Nightingale herself had bought,
which were almost depleted.
"Not a drop of milk, ma'am; and the bread is extremely
"Have we any butter?"
"None decent. What's here is mostly decomposed."
"Meat enough for broth?"
"Well, the meat is more like moist leather than like
food. And we're waiting for potatoes; they're coming
As the week passed, she knew what would be her two
greatest obstacles. One was red tape; the other, a division
of responsibility, the utter lack of co-ordination between
departments. Conditions at Scutari were indeed scandal-
ous, Mr. William H. Russell had portrayed them graph-
ically; yet it would have been impossible to say who was
at fault, whether committees or secretaries in London,
or clerks and underlings in Constantinople. Perhaps the
government as a whole was guilty. The result was all that
concerned Florence Nightingale— and the result was
As Sidney Herbert had said, as many another cabinet
member was declaring, supplies of all sorts had been
sent in quantity to Constantinople, there was no excuse
for such privations as the troops were suffering. But no-
body knew whose liability these supplies were, nobody
dared distribute them, since the duties of the various
executors had never been defined. The casks and barrels
and ton-weight containers at the Scutari wharf were
enmeshed by the coils of red tape, forms, requisitions,
regulations; the precious cargoes of supply ships were
114 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
bound by sacred "service rules," which no one would
No one except Miss Nightingale. Asking for certain
stores, she was told they had been received but could
not be released to her— not without the procuring of
endless signed papers. Such annoyances the Lady-in-
Chief would tolerate only up to a point. She would run
about from board to board, consulting this and that dig-
nitary, complying with "service rules." But if too much
put upon, she would ( and frequently did ) take the law
into her own hands.
"I must have these stores. Why weren't they delivered
"Because the board hasn't inspected them, Miss Night-
"Where is the board? No, don't answer. The board is
not sitting just now. But my men are dying for want of
these medicines, this lint. I must have them at once.
Open the warehouse door."
"I can't, Miss Nightingale. I'd be court-martialed."
"No, I'll assume the blame. They can court-martial me.
Open the door!"
Thus doors were opened to the grey-eyed, militant
The second obstacle was the attitude of some of the
military officers. As she had foreseen, her presence here
was resented by those who cherished tradition above the
emergency's obvious need. "The Bird," they called her,
these sulking adversaries; they laughed scornfully about
the Bird and accused her of meddling. There was one
ward at the Barrack in which the junior doctors were
told by their superior to have nothing to do with Miss
Nightingale, a very silly woman who insisted on getting
things scrubbed (as if it mattered whether a hospital
was clean!) and who "captured" the orderlies and co-
erced them to obey her.
"Open the warehouse door!"
Oh, yes, a thoroughly objectionable female, the Bird.
Perhaps the most unpardonable, really maddening of her
habits was that of always being right. You might dispute,
argue with her, shout at her— and then circumstances
116 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
would prove that she had facts, statistics at her finger-
tips and had been right all along. Of course, such a
woman must not be countenanced. Whisper about her,
harass her— ridicule her!
Quite conscious of this opposition, Florence could
afford to ignore it. The majority of the doctors were
friendly. As for the infantry and cavalry officers with
whom she had contact, she seemed able either to dom-
inate or defy them. Only this morning there had been an
incident in which she demonstrated her talent for quell-
She had been crossing the courtyard with a can of
arrowroot in her arms— and what a wonderful treasure it
was, unearthed from the depths of one of those locked
warehouses!— when the young captain of cavalry rode
up, halting his horse so suddenly that the animal reared
and pawed the air.
"Where did you get that can?" the captain thundered.
"Who granted you permission to go rifling the army
She had attempted no reply. Saying nothing at all, she
had stared at him.
After a few minutes, his gaze had shifted; flushed and
discomfited, he had ridden on.
But such things were of small consequence, weren't
they? By contrast, she could meditate upon the courtesy
of Lord Raglan, British commander of all troops in the
Crimean area, who had officially welcomed Miss Night-
ingale and promised his support and sympathy. The
Senior Chaplain at Scutari also was a stanch ally, tire-
lessly lending himself to any task she proposed, even
writing a letter back to her father in praise of her. And
there were the Bracebridges, sustaining her with their
cheerfulness, working like Trojans wherever she posted
them, constantly telling her— telling everyone— that the
good she had done and was doing was priceless. And
her nurses, the members of her little band, had an abso-
lute faith in the decisions of the Lady-in-Chief.
And her patients? They were the ones who counted!
"My children '—she thought of them as that. "My poor,
dear children!" Well, no sane person could have doubted
how her children felt about Miss Nightingale, how pa-
thetically they depended upon her, how glad and grate-
ful they were to find in this alien land an Englishwoman,
somebody from home, who gently and mercifully tended
them, whose only wish was to comfort and cure them.
"Yes," said Florence, "we are getting on nicely in many
Meanwhile, the violent controversy about the misfor-
tunes of the Crimean wounded continued to rage in the
columns of the London Times, and several observers ven-
tured out to see for themselves what was happening at
Early among the visitors was the Reverend Sidney
Godolphin Osborne, with letters of introduction from Mr.
Sidney Herbert. By chance, perhaps, the Reverend Mr.
Osborne was escorted around the Constantinople hos-
pitals by one of the doctors who would not acknowledge
the true state of affairs. Repeatedly Mr. Osborne asked if
he might not contribute some financial help, either from
his own or other funds.
"No, no," replied the doctor. "We have everything.
Nothing is wanting."
The assertion did not deceive Mr. Osborne. He had
eyes in his head and, moreover, a measure of familiarity
118 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
with medical and surgical practices. He saw at a glance
that, had not Miss Nightingale been there, disaster would
have overwhelmed Scutari. Returning to England, he re-
ported her efficiency and industry— not forgetting to men-
tion also the jealousy which somewhat hindered her
Then Mr. Macdonald, appointed to administer the
Times fund, came to Scutari. Mr. Macdonald had by now
a vast amount of money to expend for the relief of the
wounded. His first call had been at the London War
Office, where he was cordially received but assured that
the government had made ample provision and it was
scarcely likely any further relief was needed at the front.
Nevertheless, Mr. Macdonald thought he might as well
proceed to the Crimea, an idea in which Mr. Sidney Her-
bert heartily concurred. So Mr. Macdonald sailed for
Here he was met with the same smiling, polite rebuff.
Everything was progressing beautifully in the hospitals;
the patients lacked for nothing. Slightly puzzled, Mr.
Macdonald was wondering whether to go back to Lon-
don, when he encountered a surgeon of the 39th regi-
"If you have money, sir," said the surgeon, "for pity's
sake, get our troops warm winter clothing! Their only
uniforms are the linen suits issued to them under the hot
sun of Gibraltar. Bitter weather is at hand. The men will
be literally frozen to death! After that, look into the Scu-
tari hospitals where the Englishwomen are nursing."
Mr. Macdonald straightway went into the markets and
bought blankets and woollen clothing for the men of the
39th regiment. Then he turned his steps toward Scutari.
The officers he spoke with there were just as polite as
those in Constantinople. They were interested to know
CRIMEAN DAYS 119
of the money collected by the Times from an aroused
and patriotic public. Amazing, splendid that so much
had been subscribed. But there was no occasion to spend
even a fraction of it on provisions for the army hospitals.
"We are abundantly well off!"
The most august of all the officers had what seemed
an inspiration. "Why doesn't the Times dispose of its
fund by building an English church at Pera?"
His fellow officers applauded. "A fine idea! A worthy
But, somehow, the English church at Pera had scant
appeal to Mr. Macdonald— and anyway, he had resolved
to see his mission through. "I should like to talk to Miss
Oh, the Bird? Dubiously they took him to the Lady-
"Miss Nightingale, I have come out here to offer the
financial aid of thousands of your admirers. But now I
am told that no aid is needed. Our soldiers have every-
Florence's face was a study. "You have seen the Bar-
rack hospital, Mr. Macdonald?"
"No. Only some of its staff."
She got to her feet. "Come with me."
They went through the wards and she showed him
what had been done— and what remained to be done;
the narrow rooms, the narrower corridors packed with
rows of crudely constructed cots, mattresses hastily
thrown together, improvised beds; the hundreds of men
who had been washed and clad in clean garments; the
hundreds more who were still half -naked, their wounds
padded with bloody rags. In and out, up and down, cov-
ering the four miles of a veritable City of Misery, he fol-
lowed her slim, graceful figure, watching the eyes of the
120 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
men light with new hope as she passed, hearing her greet
this one and that, never raising her quiet voice yet instill-
ing with a sentence something of her own tremendous
"This is what we have, Mr. Macdonald," she said at
last. "Is it everything?"
When he made his report on Scutari, Mr. Macdonald
had all the facts, and the Times fund would be spent
wisely to accomplish good. He could not refrain from
giving his impression of Florence Nightingale herself.
She was an "incomparable woman," a "ministering
angel." "The popular instinct was not mistaken which,
when she set out from England, hailed her as a heroine."
Another black night, and the Lady-in-Chief was start-
ing, as was her custom, on the half -hour's walk from the
Barrack to the General Hospital. She always went, she
couldn't have slept without knowing that there, too, the
nurses had done their best. The path was unpaved and
treacherous and she had with her an invalid soldier, who
carried a lantern in his hand— the one hand which was
left him after the Battle of the Alma.
"Steady on, Miss Nightingale!" The soldier swung his
lantern in a flickering arc. "It's all rocks here."
"Yes, they say that from this spot the most beautiful
view in the world is visible— in the daytime, I mean."
"You haven't seen the view then, ma'am?"
"Oh, no. I am never out except like this, at night. I
should probably be too busy even to look."
She laughed a little, with a faint note of gayety. Mr.
Macdonald was a friend; he would not forget. Supplies
were on the way.
PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS
"I always thought I might end my days as matron of a
hospital," said Florence. "I never in wildest fancy
thought I should end them as purveyor to a large part of
the British army."
It was a foggy winter morning ("Inkerman weather,"
the soldiers in the Barrack said) cold, cloudy, drizzling;
the Lady-in-Chief sat at a pine table in the central room
of the nurses' quarters. She had been writing to Mr. Sid-
ney Herbert and had paused to chat with Mrs. Brace-
bridge who was rearranging the shelves with which the
walls were lined.
"If you didn't act as purveyor, we should be in a
muddle," said Selina. "Someone must act, and the real
purveyor has lost himself in snarls of red tape."
"Yesterday I foraged in the stores. It's a cruise I make
almost daily and not sanctioned— but the only way I
know of to get first-hand evidence of our stock."
"What did you find, Flo?"
"Very little. The things unf ound were more numerous.
No mops, no plates, no wooden trays— though the en-
gineer is having them made. No slippers, no shoebrushes
or blacking, no scissors for cutting the men's hair, no
chloride of zinc— which I especially wanted."
"A gloomy prospect, isn't it?"
"Yes," Florence said, "but there is a brighter side. A
L22 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
great many things have somehow come under my juris-
diction, so that I can dole them out where needed." Smil-
ing, she looked about the room, which was neatly stacked
with boxes, parcels, bundles of sheets and old linen, bolts
of flannel; tubs of butter, sugar, bread; kettles, sauce-
pans, books. "And here, Selina, is a notice that we're get-
ting shirts, thousands of them, purchased with the Times
money— yes, and getting them by requisition from the
very official who a short while ago told Mr. Macdonald
that we had more shirts than we could use! Bless Mr.
Macdonald of the Times! And bless the Reverend Mr.
Osborne and all other messengers of good will!"
Selina nodded emphatically; and Florence turned
again to her letter, wrote a paragraph:
"I am a kind of general dealer in socks, shirts, knives
and forks, wooden spoons, tin baths, cabbage and car-
rots, operating tables, towels and soap, small tooth
combs, precipitate for destroying lice, bed pans and
stump pillows. I will send you a picture of my Caravan-
serai, into which beasts come in and out. Indeed the ver-
min might, if they had but 'unity of purpose,' carry off
the four miles of beds on their backs, and march with
them into the War Office."
At that moment, a nurse entered and stood respectfully
just inside the door. Florence put down her pen.
"Yes, Mrs. Drake?"
"Sago and beef tea for the fever cases in Ward Four,
if you please, Miss Nightingale."
"Very well. Mrs. Bracebridge has them on her shelves."
Selina handed die containers of sago and beef tea to
Mrs. Drake, who went out, her stiff skirts rustling.
"I suppose," Florence said, "the five big copper boilers
haven't been mended?"
PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS 123
"So we have only eight good ones? Lucky that we
opened our two extra diet kitchens and fixed the three
supplementary boilers on the main stairway."
"You did it," Selina said. "Quite alone, too. No one else
would have thought of it. But you saw it was taking three
or four hours to serve each meal, with the nurses trudg-
ing interminable miles between the wards and the old
kitchen, and the food getting chilled— and the weaker
patients, those who couldn't feed themselves, often going
hungry. You have simply revolutionized the cookery
methods in the Barrack, Flo."
"And you have done as much with the laundry meth-
"No. You and I together, my dear."
The laundry had indeed been a problem. There were
in Scutari more than two hundred soldiers' wives who
had no shelter, no livelihood, who faced a winter of
utter destitution. Florence had said something must be
done for them; and the generous Bracebridges had
promptly collected a sum of money for their care. Using
this fund and donating money of her own, Florence had
rented a house for the women to occupy; and then
abruptly thinking of the hospital laundry, she had asked
Selina why the soldiers' wives could not be hired to wash
the hospital bedding. After only a slight delay, proper
laundry equipment was installed in the rented house and
the vast washing project begun. Now Selina had been
deputized to manage it; and though conditions could not
be described as ideal, they were certainly much im-
Florence finished and sealed her letter to Mr. Herbert.
She would have had to stop writing anyway, because a
124 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
group of orderlies waited at the door with requests or
inquiries, and she knew that the customary rush of busi-
ness had started. The nurses called this room the Tower
of Babel; by late morning and then all through the rest of
the day, it was besieged by people— by the nurses them-
selves, nuns, Turkish and Greek servants, French and
Italian servants, British officers and surgeons. Everybody
wanted to see and talk with Miss Nightingale; everybody
was intent on his particular assignment, each spoke his
own language. Sometimes also the Lady-in-Chief would
hold here the "councils" over which she presided with
firmness and dignity; and this was her office ( at least, the
only one she had) from which she had sent frequent
reports to the government and to benefactors and sup-
porters in England.
Many of the consultations were of the most serious
import. Some were trivial—
"Good morning, Mrs. Lawfield. What can I do for
"Miss Nightingale, excuse me, ma'am. I came out, as
you know, prepared to submit to everything, to be put
upon in every way. But there are some things, ma'am,
one can't submit to."
"What things, for example?"
"There is the caps, ma'am, that suit one face and won't
suit another." Mrs. Lawfield twisted a corner of her apron
and looked very unhappy. "If I'd known, ma'am, about
the caps, great as was my desire to come out to nurse at
Scutari, I wouldn't have come, ma'am."
The Lady-in-Chief thought a moment. The costume
she had devised for the Nightingale nurses was a gray
tweed wrapper-like gown, a worsted jacket and, for out-
door wear, a short woollen coat and a brown holland
PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS 125
scarf embroidered in red with the words "Scutari Hos-
pital." The close-fitting cap was intended to give the
wearer a sober, modest appearance; Miss Nightingale
had not been bothered at all as to whether it was becom-
How foolish of Mrs. Lawfield to bother! But she was
such a good nurse— perhaps an exception should be
"I daresay you may go without the cap, Mrs. Law-
"Oh, thank you, ma'am."
Completely satisfied, Mrs. Lawfield bowed and with-
Also interrupting the stream of significant callers at
the Caravanserai was Thomas. Twelve years old, a drum-
mer boy, the pride of his regiment, the pet of the hos-
pital, Thomas had fallen quite in love with Miss Night-
ingale. "I'm her man," he said, and had announced that
he was ready to die for her— or, when the war was over,
to forsake his drum and his military career, to go back to
England with her.
He saluted. "I just dropped in, Miss Nightingale, to
tell you what my comrades are saying about you."
"What is that?"
"Before you came, they say, there was such cussin' and
swearin' as you never heard; but since you came, it's all
as holy as a church. You're the Angel of the Crimea, they
say, and bad men can't be bad in the presence of an
"Thank you, Thomas. I shall remember. But you had
best run along now."
"Yes, ma'm," said Thomas.
126 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
The rush continued, all the many people who must
bring their troubles and perplexities to Miss Nightingale
and ask for remedy. Gradually they had realized that this
was the one person they could rely upon; gradually, by
steady pressure, she had established her authority here.
She had done so by never sparing herself, never for an
instant saying, even to herself, that she would not suc-
ceed. By what she knew to be superhuman effort she
was accomplishing a work of reformation which to the
world must have seemed impossible. But to her, failure
had been the impossible thing; and she had always
known she could not fail.
She liked to think that in all these weeks she had not
allowed herself an hour's recreation, had denied herself
proper rest and sleep and fresh air, that often mealtimes
were passed over and forgotten while she toiled. To have
given less than every ounce of strength would not have
been enough— would not have been what God expected
of her. For God was the only master she would acknowl-
edge; she was His representative at Scutari; the work she
did was His work. In that thought was all the reward, all
the pleasure she desired.
" 'Thy will be done'— '
In the evening, she revised again her disciplinary rules
for the nurses. It was probably inevitable that, human
nature being as it is, she should have been disappointed
in some of the selections made back there, so quickly, in
London. One young girl had been sent home almost im-
mediately upon arrival; she was unqualified profession-
ally, unfit morally. Much to the Lady-in-Chief's joy, her
place had been taken at once by a Kaiserswerth nurse
from Constantinople. Soon afterward, four more nurses
PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS 127
were dismissed; they would not accept Miss Nightin-
gale's rigid code and so she had felt she could not keep
them on. A half-dozen she had transferred from the Bar-
rack to the General Hospital. Now that she knew them
well, she could estimate that of the original thirty-eight,
only sixteen were really efficient at their job; but of these
sixteen, five or six deserved ( like Mrs. Lawfield ) a rating
Writing by lamplight in the Caravanserai, Florence
outlined her ideas of nursing, of ward management.
Every nurse, she wrote, should have undergone a course
of training and should be, upon completing the course,
subject to the direction of a female superintendent. The
nurse must never think of herself as a rival of the doctor's,
but must be wholly subordinate to the doctor, doing his
bidding, heeding his instructions, never prescribing for a
patient, never waiting upon a patient, except as the doc-
tor specified. But nurses must not be regarded, by either
doctors or persons outside the profession, as domestic
servants— as housemaids; for they were never meant to
be that, and theirs was a higher calling. A nurse's trained
skill, her precious time, must not be wasted on such
chores as the most unskilled slavey could as capably per-
form. The employment therefore of domestic servants
and orderlies in a hospital must not be done away
Nurses must seek to exert a moral influence; they must
always appear in the regulation uniform with the badge,
must not trim their "bonnet-caps" with flowers or rib-
bons, must not have more than a small and designated
amount of spirituous liquor to drink, could walk out only
by permission, and then with their superintendent or in
parties of three.
128 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
Though she didn't know it, Miss Nightingale was put-
ting down the fundamental rules which, somewhat al-
tered, would govern the nursing in military hospitals for
generations to come.
"Flo! The post is here— and a letter for you!"
Florence looked up at Selina Bracebridge who had
pushed aside the burlap curtain hanging in the doorway
of \he Caravanserai.
"Forwarded by Mr. Herbert. It is dated *Windsor
Castle, December 6, 1854/ "
"Windsor Castle? From the Queen, Selina?"
Yes, from the Queen. Florence read it aloud:
" 'Would you tell Mrs. Herbert 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 in-
terest me more than anyone.
' 'Let Mrs. Herbert also know that I wish Miss Night-
ingale 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
" '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.' '
There was a little silence; then Selina said, rather tear-
fully, "God save the Queen!"
"I shall ask the Senior Chaplain to go from ward to
PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS
ward, reading the letter," Florence said. "Even the dying
will want to know of Her Majesty's loving kindness."
When Selina had gone off in search of the Senior
It was mostly hushed
Chaplain, Florence took up her lamp to make her final
round of the Barrack.
The place was pitchy black tonight; in some rooms,
beneath a vaulted roof, like an eerie cavern; in the low-
130 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
ceiled corridors, like a tunnel burrowing underground.
It was mostly hushed, only an occasional stifled moan
disturbing the silence; no other movement than an occa-
sional figure tossing on a lumpy mattress, or unyielding
cot, an orderly nodding in a chair, a nurse slipping softly
by on noiseless feet. The cold wind buffeted at the win-
dows and, far away, could be heard the dull roar of
waves on the Straits of the Dardanelles— "like the sound
of the Derwent," Florence thought, "when Parthe and
I listened to it in our nursery at Lea Hurst, with the
Through all the rooms she went, shifting a pillow here,
straightening a blanket there, her shadow silhouetted in
the ring of yellow which bobbed along the wall.
"The lady with the lamp!" It was a murmur running
swiftly before the advancing ray of light; and men
reached out to touch the shadow on the wall; and those
who could, leaned forward to kiss the shadow as she
The winter was hard and long in the Crimea. The
British and French troops were entrenched around the
Russian stronghold of Sevastopol; but sleet, snow and
mud kept all armies at a standstill and the only military
operations were a few siege skirmishes which could not
be marked up as victories or defeats for either side.
During those months disease was die principal foe of the
British soldier, and disease had its many triumphs.
Poorly fed and equipped, exposed to severe weather, the
men by hundreds were sick with coughs, fever, pneu-
Between the peninsular ports and Scutari, ships plied
constantly, bringing more and more patients to Miss
Nightingale's hospitals. Such arrivals Florence could
cope with calmly enough— they were all in the day's
work; but one ship which docked brought passengers of
another sort, whose coming angered and disconcerted
She was seated that day in the tower room at her
table; she wore her usual costume, a black merino frock
trimmed with black velvet, white linen collar, cuffs,
apron and cap. She heard footsteps in the corridor, the
curtain in the doorway was lifted. She glanced up— and
saw her old friend, Miss Mary Stanley. Behind Miss
Stanley was a sizable group of feminine figures, dozens
it seemed, dressed for traveling, luggage in their hands.
"Are you surprised, Florence?" said Miss Stanley.
"We've come to help you with the nursing"
"There are forty of us; we've come to help you with the
Florence got up. No, she was not surprised; she had
been forewarned. But she was irate. Miss Stanley was a
SCUTARI WINTER 133
daughter of the Bishop of Norwich, she was a nurse of
some experience and Florence had known her intimately
for years. But Florence had not ( and this was the point! )
invited Miss Stanley to help at Scutari.
"You are here by Mr. Sidney Herbert's authority,"
Florence said coldly. "He sent you, after Mr. Brace-
bridge and the Reverend Mr. Osborne told him we were
badly off and understaffed. But, of course, Mr. Herbert
has no authority, and the gentlemen misinformed him.
We are not badly off, we do not need more nurses. In
fact, we are so crowded that we can't find quarters for
you." She hesitated. "You may sleep here tonight, Mary;
perhaps there will be a place for your party in the Gen-
eral Hospital. Later you can all be assigned to other
hospitals in Constantinople, or somewhere."
When, rather abashed, Miss Stanley and her com-
panions had withdrawn, Florence wrote furiously to
Sidney Herbert. Yes, she had received his letter which
said that Mary Stanley was leaving for Scutari. And now
Miss Stanley had come. Meddling women? Well, what
about meddling men? How dared anyone go over the
head of the Lady-in-Chief to plan improvements at
Scutari? Mr. Herbert must understand once and for all
that, much as she liked him, Miss Nightingale would
stand for no interference from him— or from any source.
She had agreed to assume full management here; that
she would assume and nothing less.
Her pen scratched over the paper. "You have sacri-
ficed the cause so near my heart, you have sacrificed me,
a matter of small importance now; you have sacrificed
your own written word to a popular cry." Perhaps Mr.
Herbert thought that, having found shelter for these
forty poor wanderers, Miss Nightingale ought to resign?
134 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
She recalled to him how she had worked to gain the
confidence of the medical officers; how by incessant vigi-
lance, day and night, she had drilled her little band until
now routine reigned where wildest upheaval had been
before. Forty more nurses? To have women scampering
about the wards of a Military Hospital all day long,
which they would do were their numbers so increased
would relax the discipline and increase their leisure. It
would be both improper and absurd.
Yes, Miss Nightingale was thinking seriously of re-
Mr. Herbert wilted under this blast and was all apolo-
gies. People in England were enthusiastic and senti-
mental, he said, and probably had no idea of what the
task at Scutari had been. He had acted impulsively; and
at the behest, too, of Mr. Osborne, Mr. Bracebridge and
other well-intentioned persons. But Florence must feel
free to do just as she saw best. Miss Stanley and her
whole party could be returned to England at Mr. Her-
bert's expense, and the incident closed.
Mrs. Herbert wrote to Mrs. Bracebridge, "I am heart-
broken about the nurses, but I do assure you, if you send
them all home without a trial, you will lose some really
By the time these letters came, Florence had simmered
down considerably and was thinking that a few recruits
to her staff might be a boon. She reorganized the Barrack
nurses, increasing the roster to fifty. Miss Stanley and the
rest then went to hospitals at Koulali and Balaclava.
But between Miss Nightingale and Miss Stanley there
was a definite estrangement and, parting at Scutari, they
did not meet again. Florence had no regrets. Not this
bond of friendship or any other could weigh in the bal-
ance with what she believed to be her duty. Individuals
meant nothing— her cause everything!
With the men in the wards, her "children," Miss
Nightingale was always infinitely compassionate and
tender; but it was not in her character to take petty per-
secution without striking back, and more than once that
winter she lashed out at her critics. In letters home she
loosed her remarkable talent for sarcasm, writing mock-
ingly of those physicians and military officials who still
were not her friends, giving them satirical nicknames,
pillorying them with single sentences of scorn.
The nurses, too, sometimes earned her wrath.
One day three of her staff appeared before her and
announced that they were going to get married. So, in
spite of the Lady-in-Chief's watchfulness, romance had
flowered in the gloomy Barrack? She was incensed. Mar-
riage was all very well in its place— which was not at
Scutari. Some women must marry, perhaps. But not
nurses! Why could they not see, these three stupid crea-
tures, that only in serving God was their real hope for
But the nurses went on and got married, just the same
—as she had supposed they would. In such circum-
stances, her hands were tied, her superior insight of no
avail; she could do nothing to prevent their folly.
She concerned herself with her patients and the con-
dition of the Crimean army as a whole. It was pitiable,
and showed all too plainly that something, somewhere,
was very much amiss. The exhaustion of the ailing men
unloaded at Scutari was evidence of gross error on some-
body's part. Frost-bitten, thinly clad, half -starved, gaunt
136 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
and hollow-eyed, they had been an easy prey to illness
and were slow to recover. When discharged from the
hospitals, these men would go back to their former
wretched environment— and would probably soon be in
But even though the government's machinery for re-
lief seemed to have bogged down, there still were pri-
vate means of providing for the soldiers. Money in large
sums had been sent to Miss Nightingale, from England,
from Australia, New South Wales and New Zealand-
thousands of pounds. If the dilemma was one of nobody's
knowing that things were wrong, or nobody's caring
sufficiently to straighten out the sad state of affairs, then
Florence, who knew so well and cared with all her heart,
was ready to step into the breach.
She urged Mr. Herbert to buy and ship immediately
warm clothing for the Crimean troops; and she pre-
sented to him an incisive suggestion by which the
meshes of red tape could be cut and supplies, including
food, quickly transported to the front. Warehouses must
be built, she said, and porters hired. In March, 1855, this
suggestion was adopted and a road paved in the Crimea,
so that freight thereafter was delivered to its destination
without die old postponements and endless delays.
She said also that the hospital orderly system and the
ambulance corps must be reorganized. She showed with
statistics the faultiness of the army's purveying depart-
ment, and how it could be made effectual. As for the
military kitchen management and cookery, she con-
temptuously denounced it.
The army hospital's way of preparing a meal was to
issue each man his day's rations, to wrap these rations
in separate small bags of coarse cloth— and then to fling
all the bags, hundreds of them, into huge boiling caul-
SCUTARI WINTER 137
drons. Of course, all the food which came out of the
cauldron tasted alike, and none was fit to eat, especially
in invalid cases where a delicate diet was essential. Miss
Nightingale's extra diet kitchens corrected this difficulty
at the Barrack and General Hospitals; and she de-
manded that her method be instituted elsewhere.
Some of these changes were made at once; many more
were to be of benefit in the future.
Once during the winter, Miss Nightingale herself be-
came a builder; it was a venture which earned her much
criticism in hostile camps and just as much praise in
others. Several wards in the Barrack were simply too
dilapidated for further use, eight hundred beds were in
these rooms from which all patients must be removed.
Lord Raglan had told Miss Nightingale that many more
patients might be expected soon, but not he— or anyone
—would be responsible for ordering repairs.
This was a predicament calling for extreme measures.
Florence engaged two hundred workmen and had the
repairs made, paying the bill out of her own pocket.
Somewhat later the War Department approved her ac-
tion and reimbursed her.
Meanwhile in England, Lord Palmerston had been
called to head the government as Prime Minister, and
there were many cabinet changes. The offices of Secre-
tary of State and Secretary at War were combined under
Lord Panmure. Mr. Sidney Herbert was for a while Sec-
retary for the Colonies, and then resigned, though he
had not lost interest in the Crimean soldiers' plight or in
Florence Nightingale's work. The new government ap-
pointed Lord Shaftesbury to investigate sanitation prob-
lems in the Scutari hospitals, and a commission was sent
out for that purpose.
Lord Shaftesbury had a reputation as a humanitarian,
138 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
in his political career he had toiled always for the better-
ment of the laboring classes. Florence Nightingale had
become acquainted with him when she taught in the
Ragged Schools of London and Lord Shaftesbury was
president of the Ragged Schools Union, a position he
held for forty years. It was only natural, perhaps, that
these two believers in reform should have identical views
on the need for drastic reform of Scutari's sanitation
facilities. When the commissioners had surveyed the Bar-
rack, and thought about the death rate which rose ap-
pallingly in the winter months, the building of new
sewers, flooring and walls was recommended— the very
thing which Miss Nightingale had been urging for ever
so long, and to which previous officials had turned a deaf
Indeed, the commission worked swiftly and compe-
tently; Florence told Lord Shaftesbury it had "saved the
army." One of its members, Dr. John Sutherland, was a
friend with whom the Lady-in-Chief was to have a close
Florence wrote to Parthe, "We have established a
reading room for convalescents, which is well attended.
The men are so glad to read. The officers look on with
composure and say to me, 'You are spoiling the brutes.' '
The Barrack Hospital reading room was set up to pro-
vide leisure occupation for hours which, Florence knew,
might otherwise be spent in drinking; and despite the
skeptical smiles of the officers, she went on with it. Soon
drunkenness among the soldiers was the exceptional
rather than the usual thing. The officers said they could
not account for this; a phenomenon, they said; and surely
Miss Nightingale's reading room had nothing to do with
SCUTARI WINTER 139
it. The Bird was heard to say that she regretted having
no trained teacher to start a course of study. Lessons for
the soldiers? "Impossible!" exclaimed the officers.
Well, she would see about that.
As another experiment, she talked to the men on the
subject of sending their pay home to their families. She
had written this idea to the Queen, who transmitted her
letter to the cabinet— where it was discussed. Some of the
statesmen were for it; more were against it. The majority
opinion seemed to be that "the soldier is not a remitting
"Miss Nightingale," asserted one of the secretaries,
"knows nothing of the British soldier."
She did not wait for the cabinet's sanction, but pro-
ceeded to create a Money Order Office, in which on four
afternoons a month she received the money any soldier
wished to forward to his home. Mr. Sam Smith was the
receiving agent in England, passing on these allowances
to the mothers, wives and children of the various sol-
diers. About £1,000 was taken in each month, and dis-
patched overseas. The idea spread, money order offices
were opened in Constantinople, in Scutari, Balaclava
and at the army headquarters in the Crimea. Within six
months' times £71,000 was sent home. "All of it," Flor-
ence said, "money rescued from the canteen."
She tried in yet another way to rescue the soldier's pay
from the canteen— by setting up the "Inkerman Cafe" on
the Bosporus shore. She made the coffee house attrac-
tive and comfortable, and decorated it with a picture of
the Queen, which Victoria had sent from Windsor
Encouraged by the popularity of the Inkerman Cafe,
and convinced that she was not really "spoiling the
140 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
brutes," she established classrooms in the Barrack,
equipped them with books, games, music, maps, a magic
lantern and stereoscope. When this project became
known, everybody in England wished to contribute. The
Queen and the Duchess of Kent made liberal donations;
the government, through Sir Henry Storks, bought and
equipped a second school building outside the Barrack
—and two schoolmasters came from London to conduct
Florence's own faith in her "children" grew by leaps
and bounds. "I have never seen so teachable and helpful
a class as the Army generally. Give them opportunity
promptly and securely to send money home, and they
will use it. Give them schools and lectures and they will
come to them. Give them books and games and amuse-
ments and they will leave off drinking. Give them suffer-
ing and they will bear it. Give them work and they will
How did the men feel about Miss Nightingale? Listen
to them as they talk together in the wards:
"Wonderful, she is, at cheering up anyone who's a
"She's all full of life and fun when she speaks to us."
"If she were commanding our troops, we'd be in Sevas-
topol in a week!"
"Yes, and if the Queen should die, they ought to make
Miss Nightingale the queen. 'Queen Florence!' How is it,
"Aye, aye! Queen Florence!"
A visitor from England in January, 1855, wrote that
to see Florence in the Barrack made intelligible to him
the saints of the Middle Ages. "If the soldiers were told
that the roof had opened, and she had gone up palpably
SCUTARI WINTER 141
to Heaven, they would not be the least surprised. They
quite believe she is in several places at once."
But in England, now and again, someone wondered
if maybe Miss Nightingale was too broad-minded about
religion. Was it so that she had no Presbyterian nurses
at Scutari? A curious oversight! Hadn't she been quoted
as saying that some of the Catholic nuns were the truest
Christians she had ever met? Hadn't she written of the
Reverend Mother Moore as her mainstay, "devoted,
heart and head, to serve God and mankind?"
Was this Popery? Well, we must write to the London
Echoes reached Florence. "They tell me," she com-
mented in a letter to Mr. Herbert, "that there is a reli-
gious war about poor me in the Times, and that Mrs.
Herbert has generously defended me. I do not know
what I have done to be so dragged before the Public.
But I am so glad that my God is not the God of the High
Church, or of the low, that He is not a Romanist or an
Anglican— or a Unitarian. I don't believe He is even a
Russian, though His events go strangely against us.
(N. B.— A Greek once said to me at Salamis, 'I do believe
God Almighty is an Englishman.' " )
The fact was that she made no distinctions on religious
grounds between her nurses; and Miss Shaw Stewart,
Mrs. Roberts and Mrs. Drake, Protestants all, were as
much her favorites as were the nuns. She based her judg-
ment solely on ability— and intolerance she had always
It was spring at last and the number of cases at the
Barrack so reduced that Florence decided to cross the
142 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
Black Sea to inspect the Balaclava hospitals. The trip
might refresh her, for far from feeling satisfied with what
she had done, she was haunted by the thought of what
more she might have done.
She took with her a few companions; Mr. Bracebridge,
Mrs. Roberts, two cooks, a courier, an invalided soldier
and Thomas, the drummer boy.
May 5, she wrote home: "Poor old Flo steaming up
the Bosporus in the Robert Lowe or Robert Slow (for
an exceedingly slow boat she is ) taking back 420 of her
patients, a draught of convalescents returning to their
regiments to be shot at again. What suggestions do the
above ideas make to you in the Embley drawing-room?
Stranger ones perhaps than to me, who, having been at
Scutari six months today, am in sympathy with God, ful-
filling the purpose I came into the world for."
"THE DAUGHTER OF ENGLAND!
From the deck of the Robert Lowe, Florence saw the
several large ships, the many small boats anchored in the
There were large ships anchored in the harbour of Balaclava
144 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
harbour of Balaclava. The shore and the landing pier
were dark with people.
"Who are they all? Why have they gathered here?"
she asked Charles Bracebridge.
In a moment she had her answer. These were friends,
people who had heard of Miss Nightingale and her splen-
did work, who hoped now for a glimpse of Scutari's
Lady-in-Chief . No sooner had her vessel steamed in than
the welcome began, doctors and officials of Balaclava
boarded the Robert Lowe to offer their respects and
compliments. For more than an hour, Florence greeted
her guests— and she was rather bored about it; she dis-
liked such functions anyway; and what she really wanted
was to go ashore and inspect hospitals. Lord Raglan, she
was told, was scheduled to arrive shortly.
"I am sorry I cannot wait for him," Florence said, "but
my errand is not of a social nature and I have no time to
Thus, she missed the coming of the British com-
mander. She went directly from the waterfront to the
biggest of the hospitals where she started her tour of
But she did not wish to seem discourteous, and next
day she set out on horseback with an escort to visit Lord
Raglan at his headquarters in the camp of the besieging
The mare she rode was a beautiful creature, so light
brown in color as to look golden in the sunshine, and so
spirited that only an expert horsewoman could have kept
in the saddle, as the party pushed forward along muddy
paths which were noisy and crowded with refugees. This
was spring, fine warm weather and the thousands of
Crimean inhabitants made homeless by the war were on
"the daughter of England!" 145
the move again after a winter of hardship and despair,
streaming back toward the farms from which military
maneuvers had driven them. Everywhere was tumult-
straggling lines of oxen, sheep, cattle and mules, with
their owners plodding behind; strings of carts and
wagons, pulled by donkeys or by hand, laden with house-
hold goods, with grain sacks and crude fann implements.
In the ditches beside the patiis were overturned and
abandoned conveyances, wreckage, rusty cannon left by
A scene of bedlam. But Florence rode without acci-
dent through it, though the golden mare often shied and
reared and pranced skittishly.
"You are not afraid, Miss Nightingale?" queried an
officer in her escort.
"Afraid?" She smiled. "I've ridden since I was a little
girl." She thought for a minute of that little girl she had
been, racing madly over the English downs, jumping
fences— with Parthe as companion, or the Reverend Mr.
Giffard or some other of those dear friends at home.
They went first to the village of Kadikoi, stopping to
see the hospital there. Then they climbed to the top of a
nearby hill which overlooked the approaches of Sevasto-
pol. Alighting, they stood on the crest and Florence
gazed down at the white tents which by thousands
flanked the city walls. Puffs of white smoke billowed
intermittently skyward, cannon boomed and muskets
crackled fire. Sevastopol was beleaguered, was grimly
resisting, but surrender was predicted.
Thomas scrambled over the rocks to stand beside Miss
Nightingale. "The Russians can't last much longer," he
said, his eyes bright with interest. "A wonderful sight,
isn't it, ma'am?"
146 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
She shook her head sadly and turned away, knowing
what the sight meant in human anguish, praying in her
heart for the end of all fighting.
On the outskirts of the British lines was a hospital
which she wished to inspect. Word of her visit had pre-
ceded her; as she went through the wards, the men re-
ceived her with rejoicing. Lord Raglan was not there or
in his headquarters. Unaware of Miss Nightingale's com-
ing, he had gone off early to a distant area of the
"But that doesn't matter," Florence said. She had now
called upon him and exchanged courtesies— and she
would have more time to spend with the sick and
Emerging an hour later, she was delighted to find a
group of old acquaintances outside the hospital. These
were former patients of hers at Scutari, men sent back
from the Barrack to active duty, rallying around her now
to shout their greetings.
"Miss Nightingale! Hurrah for the Lady-in-Chief!"
It was almost too much for the golden mare, who
pranced and capered like a circus pony. But Florence's
grip on the reins was steady, as she bowed and smiled.
A mile farther on, one of the escort officers said that
they had best circle back toward safer terrain.
"Oh, no!" protested Florence. "Let us go up ahead."
"But the guns are firing, Miss Nightingale."
"I want a view of Sevastopol," she said, and while he
hesitated, she pulled aside and trotted toward the city
walls, and was at a point where the gates could be seen.
But here a sentry darted from ambush, waving his
"Sharp firing! Turn away!"
"the daughter of England!" 147
"I am Florence Nightingale—"
"Just so!" cried the sentry. "The Russians would be
glad to aim at you, ma'am."
She laughed. "Please let me go on. I'm not in the least
"No!" said the sentry, but then his arms dropped, for
the lady was going on, unheeding. "Ah, well, if you
"Miss Nightingale," said the escort officer, "I beg you
to dismount and take refuge in that stone redoubt over
Florence dismounted. The view from the redoubt was
good, but still she was not contented. "I am going into
The sentry was horrified. "The trenches? You will be
"Oh, I don't think so."
"Madam," said the sentry, "if anything happens, these
gentlemen will witness that I did not fail to warn you of
She had been peering through a telescope; lowering
it, she tied her cap strings, gathered her cape about her
and smiled at him. "My good young man," she said,
"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 service. Believe me,
I am not afraid."
So she went into the trenches, walked through those
deep and narrow gashes in the earth, stepped upon the
ramparts, touched the gun carriages and the iron muz-
zles of the mortar cannon. Lastly she climbed up and sat
a moment upon the center mortar.
One of her party, a Frenchman with an instinct for
148 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
the dramatic, cried out: "Behold the heroic daughter of
England— the soldier's frend!"
A mighty burst of cheering rose from the trenches.
"Bravo! Long live the daughter of England!"
"Henceforth this mortar shall be known as the 'Night-
ingale mortar!' " cried the Frenchman.
Now all the regiment had seen the valiant lady on the
mortar, everyone was shouting: "It's Florence Night-
ingale! The Angel of the Crimea!"
The noise was so great that even the Russians inside
the walls of Sevastopol heard and were startled. Flor-
ence herself was startled. Her face flushed with emotion,
tears in her eyes, she got down from her perilous look-
"Miss Nightingale, we must go back to Balaclava—"
"Yes," she said quietly. "I am ready."
She was very tired that night— from the excitement
and the long, rough ride, she thought. But in the morn-
ing, she was up and in the saddle for a trip to some con-
valescent huts located on the mountain slope, eight hun-
dred feet above sea level. The sun was hot, with a brassy
glare. All day the sun beat upon her and with evening
a damp wind blew. She was quite exhausted; but next
day she made the trip again, taking nurses who were
much needed in the huts. For three days more she con-
tinued with her work of supervising the outlying in-
firmaries and convalescent posts— and then she could not
She was ill. She had been stricken with that worst of
scourges, Crimean fever.
The doctors in attendance were worried and ordered
"the daughter of England!" 149
that she be cared for in the mountainside sanatorium,
where the pure air might speed recovery. They placed
her on a stretcher and six soldiers, men whom she once
had nursed, who knew and loved her, carried the
stretcher through the streets of Balaclava and up the
mountain road. Mrs. Roberts walked beside her, holding
a white umbrella to shield Miss Nightingale from the
pitiless sun; Thomas, weeping like a baby, marched be-
hind and following Thomas was a doleful procession of
"Florence Nightingale is ill! She is near death!"
The tidings spread through Balaclava, echoed in Scu-
tari. The patients in her own hospitals heard and buried
their faces in their pillows, grieved and sobbing. The
tidings were wafted to England, over the new electric
cable recently completed. In London the message cre-
ated consternation. Miss Nightingale ill? Dying, per-
haps? This was a national calamity!
At five o'clock in the afternoon of a crucial day, two
horsemen galloped to the door of the sanatorium and
knocked. It was raining; their guttapercha cloaks were
dripping wet, their hats sodden.
"We've come to inquire for Miss Nightingale," said
one of diem, to Mrs. Roberts who had opened the
"Hist! Don't speak so loud, my man!" Mrs. Roberts
gestured for silence.
"Is Miss Nightingale here?"
"Yes, she is, poor lady—"
The visitor strode in, but Mrs. Roberts planted herself
in the way. "No, you don't!"
"I must see Miss Nightingale."
"Oh, must you? And who are you?"
150 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
"Only a soldier, madam, but I've traveled long miles.
My name is Raglan. Miss Nightingale knows me."
"Raglan?" Mrs. Roberts paused— and just then Flor-
ence called from her sickroom.
"It's Lord Raglan, Mrs. Roberts. Tell him I have a very
bad fever, he must not see me."
Without more ado, Lord Raglan pushed by the nurse,
went into the room and seated himself on a stool at the
bedside. "I, too, am without fear," he said, "of fever or
anything else, Miss Nightingale. I felt that I should never
rest until I had expressed to you my thanks for all you've
done and my wish that you may soon be well again." He
stared at her, noticing how thin she was, her lips
parched, her cheeks stained with unhealthy color. Was
this to be her fate? Florence Nightingale, dying like this,
her task unfinished? No, Lord Raglan did not think so.
She would be spared. He got up. "Good-bye, Miss
Nightingale. You will recover."
For twelve days more her condition was serious, but
now the fever was receding, she was gaining a little
strength. The doctors said that in a week she could be
sent home to England.
"I am going home," she said, "to Scutari."
There was no arguing with the Lady-in-Chief. If she
said she was going to Scutari, that was what she would
do. The doctors sighed and summoned the stretcher-
bearers. Down the mountain she was carried, and so to
the port. At least, though, she could sail more comfort-
ably than in a troop ship; Lord Ward's private yacht was
in the Ralaclava harbor and Selina Rracebridge, who
had come in haste at the first news of Florence's illness,
arranged for the use of this lighter, faster craft.
In June, only a little more than a month from the time
"the daughter of England!" 151
of her embarking for the Crimea, Florence saw again the
lovely spires and minarets of Constantinople's skyline.
"I shall get well rapidly here," she said to Mrs. Brace-
bridge. "I am so happy to be back with my people."
Her people! All the men in the wards at the Barrack
and the General Hospital wept their thankfulness and
spoke her name with reverent awe. She had returned,
their Angel— more slender and delicate than ever in fig^
ure, her hair cut short, with just the curling ends show-
ing beneath her linen cap, her hands white and fragile—
but walking with the same firm tread, smiling with the
same tenderness, toiling with the same unflagging zeal
for the welfare of her "children."
If one tiling had been needed to intensify her popu-
larity in England, this illness and recovery had been the
thing. Florence Nightingale was now the most talked-of ,
the most famous woman in the world, a public idol, the
object of universal admiration and acclaim. Songs with
such titles as The Woman's Smile, The Soldiers Cheer,
The Shadow on the Pillow appeared and were sold by
the thousands of copies in music shops. Poems and ar-
tists' sketches of the Lady with the Lamp were printed,
with both short and long biographies, in all the papers,
from the smallest country journal to the publications of
the great universities. Stationers brought out note-paper
with her portrait as a watermark, or with a lithographed
view of Lea Hurst; and there were scores of different pic-
tures of her run off and sold by hawkers in the streets.
China figurines in her likeness were on the counters of
every shop, and tradesmen adorned their paper bags
with sentimental pictures portraying her as she minis-
tered to the wounded. Life boats, emigrant ships, streets,
152 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
waltzes, puddings, articles of wearing apparel were
named in her honor; and at fairs throughout the country
and at seaside resorts were wax exhibits, sometimes life-
size, depicting her at her merciful work. Race horses
were named for her— "The Forest Plate handicap was
won by Miss Nightingale, beating Barbarity and nine
others"— and dozens, hundreds, of new babies were
christened "Florence." Indeed, that magic name swept
through the British Isles and the Empire, and so on
around the globe, guaranteeing that a whole generation
of Florences would grow up to keep green the memory
of this first and noble Florence.
Lea Hurst and Embley became famous in her reflec-
tion, with gifts of every description pouring in (to be
sorted and acknowledged by Parthe ) and people driving
or tramping out on Sundays to see the places where their
heroine had lived. When it became known that Miss
Nightingale did not intend to come home to recuperate
but had said, "I will stand out the war with any man!",
all these evidences of adoration were redoubled.
It boiled up at last in a huge public meeting held in
London, the purpose of which was "to give expression to
a general feeling that the services of Miss Nightingale
in the hospitals of the East demand the grateful recog-
nition of the British people." The Times said there never
had been assembled a more brilliant, enthusiastic and
unanimous audience. The Duke of Cambridge presided,
and many representatives of the peerage were there. The
common folk thronged in too, and overflowed the hall,
and formed a vast crowd surrounding the hall, eager to
hear the eloquent speeches of appreciation, eager to sup-
port any proposal of a testimonial.
Someone ( perhaps the Duke of Cambridge ) said that
THE DAUGHTER OF ENGLAND!
Miss Nightingale had always wished to establish and
maintain in her own land an institution like Pastor Flied-
ner's at Kaiserswerth. Therefore let it be resolved that a
"Nightingale Fund" be raised, which would enable her
to have in England a nurses' training school. Every per-
son at the meeting, almost every person in the British
Isles agreed to this suggestion. Mr. Sidney Herbert sent
Miss Nightingale a copy of the resolution and told her
how freely the contributions were already being made.
After receiving these communications, Florence an-
swered rather coolly. She had not been especially pleased
to learn of all the fuss and hubbub in England; she had
never really wanted a public meeting held to pay her
homage. She was, of course, not unmindful of the sym-
pathy and the confidence which originators of the
scheme had shown her— but unless she was to have sole
control of the Nightingale Fund and the English Kaisers-
werth she would not be interested. She would accept
the proposal, yes. But her present work was such as she
would never leave for any other. "I accept their pro-
posal, provided I may do so on their understanding of
this great uncertainty as to when it will be possible for
me to carry it out."
Did she seem ungracious? She did not mean to. Per-
haps it was only that she alone realized what she strove
for— which was not recognition, but the feeling of hav-
ing done God's will properly, in her own way— and
Sevastopol fell to the British and French armies Sep-
tember 8, 1855. This ending of the siege was really the
close of the Crimean War. There would be a few more
skirmishes before the signing of the peace in Paris the
following March; but with the capitulation of be-
leaguered Sevastopol, Russia knew that she was defeated
and her troops beat a gradual retreat.
The war was over— and what good was ever to be
derived from all the fighting and bloodshed, perhaps no
one in the world could say. But, anyway, it was over.
Through the autumn months, Britain's expeditionary
force was removed, bit by bit, from the Crimean penin-
sula and shipped back home.
But, as usual, the terrible aftermath of war remained
to be dealt with; the maimed and mutilated men, the
invalids in the Crimean and Scutari hospitals. These vic-
tims Florence Nightingale still regarded as her charge.
Many friends, the members of her family, implored her
to resign her position now and return to England. The
Bracebridges, feeling that the pressure of work had
slackened, were leaving—
"Please, Flo, come with us! You are not half so well as
you pretend; your health is not what it was before that
bout with the fever in the spring. Please, dear," said
Selina, "let somebody else shoulder the burdens here!"
adventure's ending 155
But Florence was not to be persuaded. True to an old
promise, Aunt Mai Smith was starting for Scutari. "I'm
staying, Selina," said Florence. "Aunt Mai will take your
place as my special deputy. She will watch over me and
Aunt Mai, arriving on the heels of the Bracebridges'
departure, found her mission an arduous one. In letters
she described the Lady-in-Chief's nightly activities, "She
habitually writes till 1 or 2, sometimes till 3 or 4. We
seldom get through even our little dinner (after it has
been put off one, two or three hours on account of her
visitors ) without her being called away from it. I never
saw a greater picture of exhaustion than Flo last night
at ten . . . and she sat up the greater part of the night."
Such things as food, rest, temperature, Aunt Mai no-
ticed, never interfered with Florence's performance of
the task in hand. "She has attained a most wonderful
calm and presence of mind. She is, I think, often deeply
impressed, and depressed, though she does not show it
outwardly. No irritation of temper, no hurry or confu-
sion of manner, ever appears for a moment."
If she was depressed, it was because Florence foresaw
that the winter would be harsh— in some respects, the
difficulties might be even more numerous than those of
a year ago. And so they were. Lord Raglan was dead
now, an elderly man who had been worn out by the
struggles and privations of the war. By some strange
omission, the private and official instructions sent to him
and defining exactly Miss Nightingale's position as
superintendent of nurses had been mislaid or lost; and
his successors, either indifferent or hostile to Miss Night-
ingale, said they knew nothing at all about it. Florence
surmised that henceforth her work would be made as
hard as possible for her; still, she could write pluckily
to Mrs. Bracebridge, "We get things done all the same-
only a little more slowly."
She had to go on horseback
Most of that winter she was in the Crimea. The
weather was bad, with much snow, and she had to go on
horseback or in a mule cart from one to another of the
hospitals. It was hazardous traveling, and once the cart
in which she rode upset among the ruts and snowdrifts,
adventure's ending 157
and she was tumbled out, battered and bruised. After
this accident, she asked for and was given a hooded bag-
gage car, without springs but drawn by a stout, sure-
footed team, in which to make her rounds.
As she had expected, the several doctors and military
officers who could never reconcile themselves to the
Bird tried stubbornly to outwit and thwart her. But they
had reckoned without Miss Nightingale's own stubborn-
ness. She would not be outwitted or thwarted. She would
not be stopped.
On one occasion, the enemy faction in a Balaclava
hospital actually locked the doors against her— locked her
out in the winter cold. She got a chair and sat down near
the locked door, and having sent off a messenger for
another key, she sat there all day, waiting, until at night
the key was fetched. Then she weut in. She was angry,
yes. But she would have sat in that spot forever, if
necessary, to gain entrance to the patients behind the
Sometimes the persecution took other forms; she had
little or no food; her nurses had no beds and must sleep
on benches in the office of a barrack. Perhaps the opposi-
tion thought such treatment would drive the Bird away.
But she stayed, ignoring these things, as she said, "for the
sake of the work."
"When people offend, they offend the Master before
they do me," she said; therefore she would not "kick" or
resist or resent, for that was not the Master's command.
And, she added, "Is it even common sense?" She did not
By contrast were the reports reaching her from Eng-
land where she seemed to be constantly more famous.
The Nightingale Fund was growing enormously; the
158 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
Crimean soldiers had subscribed nearly £9,000, the
Navy and Coast Guard almost as much. Jenny Lind had
sung a benefit concert, the proceeds of which were con-
tributed to the Fund.
In November Queen Victoria wrote Florence a letter
filled with phrases of warmest admiration. "I am anxious,
however," said the Queen, "of marking my feelings in a
manner which I trust will be agreeable to you, and send
you with this letter a brooch, the form and emblems of
which commemorate your great and blessed work, and
which I hope you will wear as a mark of the high appro-
bation of your Sovereign!"
The brooch, a large enamelled badge, was stamped
with St. George's Cross and the Royal Cipher, sur-
mounted by a crown of diamonds and the word "Cri-
mea." Around the edge was an inscription, "Blessed
are the Merciful;" and on the reverse surface was a
second inscription: "To Miss Florence Nightingale, as a
mark of esteem and gratitude for her devotion to the
Queen's brave soldiers. From Victoria R. 1855."
Florence had little taste for jewelry; her costumes were
always unadorned, extremely simple; but she was proud
of having earned her Sovereign's "high approbation,"
and so she wore the brooch Christmas Day when she
went to dine at the British Embassy in Constantinople.
It was a distinguished company, the men in colorful uni-
forms, the women beautifully and fashionably gowned—
yet, somehow, Miss Nightingale in her white cap and
plain black dress, the Queen's decoration at her throat,
was the center of attraction, all eyes turned to her.
"I felt quite dumb," wrote another of the guests later,
"as I looked at her wasted figure and short brown hair
combed over the forehead like a child's. She is very
ADVENTURES ENDING 159
slight, rather above the middle height; her face is long
and thin, but this may be from recent illness and great
fatigue. She has a very prominent nose, slightly Roman;
and small grey eyes, kind, yet penetrating; but her face
does not give you at all the idea of great talent. She looks
a quiet, persevering, orderly, lady-like woman. She was
still very weak and did not join in the games, but she
sat on a sofa and looked on, laughing until the tears came
into her eyes."
The weather moderated in March. Often on those
early spring days Florence would stroll for an hour in
the English burying-ground at Scutari. Many of her
nurses had gone home now, the major part of the troops
had gone and hundreds of convalescents; the hospitals
were no longer crowded. But here were the soldiers who
were never to see England again, it was of them Florence
thought most earnestly— the dead.
Which among them had died needlessly? This was the
question she brooded on; the needless deaths resulting
from neglect and inadequacy of preparation and equip-
ment. She remembered the shiploads of men brought
from the battlefields, how poorly they had been clothed,
how poorly nourished. That they should have suffered so
was inexcusable; it was a wicked extravagance which
should have been checked at the source. She had studied
and pondered; and she had determined that what had
happened in the Crimea must never recur. No other
British soldiers must ever know such cruel treatment,
such a tragic fate.
Something must be done! What? Perhaps the whole
policy of a nation in regard to the maintaining of its
armies must be revised, the whole system of the British
160 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
War Department be reformed. A colossal undertaking?
Yes, but it could be effected.
Strolling, meditating, Florence Nightingale made a
solemn vow— to herself and to God. Something would
surely be done.
By midsummer the hospitals were almost empty, the
four miles of corridors and wards at the Barrack, where
wounded men had strained to catch a glimpse of a lady's
flickering lamp, were deserted and echoing. The last duty
had been discharged. Florence was sailing for England.
The British government had begged her to accept the
use of a man-of-war for the voyage; she had said no,
politely; she preferred to travel without flourish or pomp.
She had reserved passage on a French ship and had
signed the register as "Miss Smith." On the very day
before leaving, she arranged for a huge cross of white
marble to be erected on the mountain heights above
Balaclava, on a peak not far from the sanatorium where
she had lain so ill. This was to be her own tribute to the
war's heroes, a shining cross with, at the foot, the carved
supplication: "Lord have mercy on us."
With Aunt Mai and as "Miss Smith," she boarded the
vessel. She had made no announcements of any sort, in-
tended making none. In her portfolio was a letter which
said that the regiments of the Coldstream Guards, the
Grenadiers and the Fusiliers would send their three
bands to meet her at the station and "play her home,
whenever she might arrive, whether by day or night, if
only they could find out when." But, wanting no bands,
she had not told anyone about her journey.
From the French seaport she went to Paris, stopped
for a night in a modest hotel and then was off to London.
adventure's ending 161
"Miss Smith" was so inconspicuous in London that her
true identity was never guessed. She got on a train which
took her to the village station of Whatstandwell, and
from there she walked alone to Lea Hurst.
She crossed the terrace of the big old stone house and
rang the bell. The butler admitted her.
"Is it— it is Miss Florence!"
"Yes," she said. "I'm home."
"Certain persons have come in advance, Miss Flor-
ence. William Jones, a one-legged sailor lad; and Peter,
a very little Russian boy— Peter Grillage, he calls him-
self. And a dog, Miss Florence; Rousch, a black Crimean
She smiled. "The spoils of war. I've said I would adopt
William Jones and Peter Grillage; they have no people.
The black puppy was given to me by the soldiers in the
"They're all here. Miss Parthe is caring for them."
The butler bowed and stood aside, and she went past
him— into the Lea Hurst drawing-room and die embrace
of her parents and sister.
A NEW SUMMONS
"'Now," Parthe said, "all that terrible time is behind you,
Flo. Now you can rest."
They were in the morning room at Lea Hurst, Florence
stretched out on a divan, scarcely listening to her sister s
conversation, thinking not of what was behind but of
what was ahead, a job to be done, a hard job— and how
had she best attack it? In her diary only a few days ago,
she had written, "I stand at the altar of the murdered
men, and while I live I fight their cause." She had never
meant anything more sincerely. Oh, how she hated stu-
pidity, the false economy which had wasted so many
lives, the false pride which would not correct its mistakes
of judgment. With the Derbyshire sun cheerfully shining
at the windows, she walked in memory the frosty winter
corridors of Scutari, a lamp in her hand, the flickering
rays playing upon bleakness and agony.
Parthe went on, "You can't imagine the people who
have come to Lea Hurst this week, in carriages and on
foot, hoping to see you. Hordes of people. The village is
positively overrun. And all the lovely gifts! The workmen
at Sheffield have sent you a set of beautiful cutlery; and
there's that fine desk sent by our county neighbors. But I
think the Duke of Devonshire's present is the very nicest
—a silver owl! Quite like dear old Athena, this silver owl
A NEW SUMMONS 163
is; we must show it to Athena when we go to Embley.
Flo, no other British subject has ever equaled your popu-
larity. It is simply astounding!"
Florence smiled wryly. "At Scutari there were mo-
ments when the officials, to a man, would have burned
me like Joan of Arc. But they knew they couldn't, and
knew the War Office would not turn me out, because the
English public was with me."
The butler entered with the mail. Since Miss Florence's
arrival, the butler had obtained a bigger tray for the mail
which was of tremendous proportions, stacks of letters
and packages every day, and most of them addressed to
this most popular of British subjects. Parthe took the
letters and sorted them.
"Here is one from Sir James Clark in Scotland,
"Open it," Florence said. "Read it to me."
Parthe read. Sir James was asking Miss Nightingale
and her father to be his guests during September at his
house near Balmoral. He added that the Queen would be
in residence then at Balmoral Castle close by; and the
Queen had said she hoped to see Miss Nightingale.
Florence sat up suddenly. She recalled something
which the Queen had said in the letter accompanying the
jeweled badge, "It will be a very great satisfaction to me,
when you return at last to these shores, to make the
acquaintance of one who has set so bright an example
to our sex." Would not this be the ideal opportunity to
interest Victoria in the scheme which was obsessing all
"Parthe, I shall accept Sir James's invitation!"
"But can you, Flo? Have you the strength to go to
164 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
"Of course, I'm going," said Florence. "It's a wonder-
Lying there resting (or so, at least, Parthe believed)
Florence thought of a scheme she had recently been
devising. It was a thing so ambitious that any other per-
son might well have shrunk from contemplating it. But
Florence Nightingale was made of sterner stuff. She
would be faithful to the vow repeated so often in the
burying-ground above the Barrack in Scutari; what had
happened must never happen again and the bitter les-
sons of the Crimea must be instilled now, before time
swept the war into oblivion.
What would it mean to keep the vow? She did not
know. But whatever it meant, that could be done. And
She would need backing and reenforcements. She
would be the Lady-in-Chief , but there would have to be
captains to command, men distinguished and in high
place, men she could count on.
Who? Well, Sidney Herbert. Yes, she could always
count on him; like herself, his one thought was to estab-
lish God's kingdom on earth. Service was a religion to
him, as it was to her. Dr. John Sutherland was another
of the same stripe— Dr. Sutherland, the London physi-
cian who had been a member of the sanitation commis-
sion dispatched by Lord Shaftesbury to Scutari. Florence
had liked Dr. Sutherland and recognized in him the
These two, then, to start with. And more, later.
Mr. William Shore Nightingale and his daughter Flor-
ence went to Sir James Clark's home, Birk Hall, Septem-
ber 19, 1856; and two days later Sir James drove his
A NEW SUMMONS 165
guests to Balmoral Castle and there introduced them to
Queen Victoria and her husband, the Prince Consort.
It is only good manners to prepare for an afternoon's
visit with royalty— Florence had prepared in more ways
than one. Ever since she had known it was in prospect,
she had resolved that this afternoon should be important,
to herself, her plans, the nation as a whole. In these last
several days she had been studying, poring over statis-
tics, storing up information. When the Queen inquired
about her work, she was ready with detailed answers.
She pointed out the fact which had so impressed her,
that the soldiers were not properly cared for in peace
times, and therefore went, undernourished and poorly
clad and frequently half-sick, into war service. During
the first seven months of the Crimean campaign, the
mortality rate from disease alone had been sixty percent
—"a rate, Your Majesty, which exceeds that of the Great
Plague in London, a higher rate than the mortality in
cholera/' But even more dreadful to contemplate, the
death rate among soldiers, young men between the ages
of twenty and thirty-five, in peace times was double the
civilian death rate— "in some London districts, the differ-
ence is much worse. Our soldiers enlist to death in the
Surely a royal commission should be ordered, to look
into the situation, and all the facilities which science and
education had developed should be employed to remedy
it. And immediately! Delay would be fatal. She de-
nounced all who might advise delay.
"No one can feel for the army as I do. These people
who talk to us have all fed their children on the fat of the
land and dressed them in velvet and silk, while we have
been away. I have had to see my children dressed in a
166 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
dirty blanket and an old pair of regimental trousers, and
see them fed on raw, salt meat, and nine thousand of my
children— from causes which might have been prevented
—are now in their forgotten graves. But I can never for-
get! People must have seen that long winter to know
what it was!"
Miss Nightingale's eloquence was very moving; she
spoke with intense emotion, and Queen Victoria believed
her. A royal commission? But in England, a constitu-
tional monarchy, the Crown cannot institute reforms
which have not originated with its ministers. This, said
the Queen, was something Lord Panmure, the Secretary
of State for War, must sponsor. Since Lord Panmure was
expected at Balmoral within the week, Miss Nightingale
must stay and talk with him. Lord Panmure must be
persuaded, and the Queen thought this could be more
easily done if she herself were there to aid in the
Florence was not so optimistic about Lord Panmure.
She had written to him just after her return from Scutari,
wanting to put her suggestions before him, and his reply
had been polite enough but very evasive. But if the
Queen wished it, she would wait at Balmoral for him,
and hope for the best.
That night, the Prince Consort wrote in his journal of
Miss Nightingale's visit, "We are much pleased with her;
she is extremely modest."
The Queen, in a letter to the Duke of Cambridge,
wrote a comment which was destined to become a
classic: "Such a clear head. I wish we had her at the
Florence's first encounter with Lord Panmure was, it
seemed, a successful one. He was a large, burly Scots-
A NEW SUMMONS
man, with thick shoulders, a shaggy head, and a way of
moving slowly and ponderously. Florence promptly nick-
named him the "Bison," and called him that in her letters
Promptly renamed him The Bison
to Sidney Herbert with whom she was in constant com-
munication. She conferred with the Bison both at Bal-
moral and at Birk Hall; and it was agreed that she should
write a report of her Crimean experiences, with notes on
necessary reforms, this document to be considered by the
168 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
cabinet. Soon after her departure from Scotland, Flor-
ence heard what the Bison's opinion of her had been in
these meetings. Sir James Clark's son wrote to Miss
Nightingale, "You may like to know that you fairly over-
came Pan. We found him with his mane absolutely silky,
and a loving sadness pervading his whole being." And
Sidney Herbert wrote, "I forget whether I told you that
the Bison was very much pleased with his interview with
you. He says that he was very much surprised at your
physical appearance, as I think you must have been with
"Perhaps," mused Florence, "Lord Panmure has pic-
tured all lady reformers as freaks."
When the Bison's request had been seconded by Lord
Palmerston, the Prime Minister, Florence launched at
once into the assembling of material for her report. She
went to London and took rooms at the Burlington Hotel
in Old Burlington Street. Aunt Mai Smith accompanied
her; and Florence gave her parents and Parthe to under-
stand that she wanted no other chaperonage. As she had
foreseen, this separation from her family aroused pro-
tests—especially from Mrs. Nightingale, who had fondly
hoped that after so many adventures, Florence would
now step back into the role of a dutiful daughter at
home. But, having tasted freedom from family bonds,
Florence had no intention of being trapped by them
As a matter of fact, her discontent at being at home,
her resentment of any family claims made upon her,
seemed to deepen as she grew older— perhaps because
she thought of herself as an agent for service rather than
as a woman, perhaps because she had not in her nature
the longing for affection and warm personal relation-
A NEW SUMMONS 169
ships which most women know. Her capacity for love
was great, but it was reserved for the human race, for
the poor and abused and underprivileged; she chose not
to expend it on individuals. The work she had done, and
had still to do, was always uppermost in her heart and
brain; she lived for that alone; everything else was super-
fluous, a distraction, every moment missed from her work
an extravagance— almost a sin.
Friends were valuable only as they could be used to
advance her work. Aunt Mai and Uncle Sam Smith were
valuable because of their undeviating obedience to the
demands of their niece's work. Her father she would see
occasionally, in gratitude for the sympathy he had never
failed to extend. As for Mamma and Parthe, they had
not approved of Florence's work in the old days; and
though their plaintiveness had melted away in the bright
glow of her fame, they probably didn't approve of the
work now. She felt that she owed them no debt of any
sort. Obviously, she was not obliged to share existence
Once settled in the Burlington Hotel (with Aunt Mai
posted as a bodyguard, to keep off the curious folk who
always haunt a celebrity) Florence began the selection
of men she wanted as members of a royal commission to
put through her reforms. Sidney Herbert must be chair-
man—she was sure of that! But the others must be pain-
stakingly examined and each one pledged to carry out
her ideas. As she had said, and as she honestly believed,
no one on earth could "feel for the army" as she did, no
one knew so well the faults in the present system. After
weeks of correspondence and consultations, weeks in
which her hotel apartment came to be known as the
"Little War Office," she completed her roster of com-
170 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
missioners; and when at length Lord Panmure called on
her, she was able to persuade him to the appointment of
all but one of her nominees.
This in itself was a triumph; and much encouraged,
Florence proceeded to write the report Lord Panmure
had asked for.
A voluminous thing, that report! A monumental labor,
a manuscript thousands of pages long, a full account of
Florence's experiences in the Crimean War, but more
than that— a medical history of the war, with chapters of
figures and statistics and sections dealing with army diet
and cookery, washing and canteens, commissariats and
provisioning agents, the construction of army hospitals,
the education and promotion of medical officers. No
phase of those problems faced and solved at Scutari was
omitted from the report; and in the final section the
Lady-in-Chief summarized her suggestions for reform.
But though Florence wrote at prodigious length, she
had finished before Lord Panmure was ready to name
the royal commissioners. The Bison, she discovered, was
indeed a slow-moving animal. To Florence, with her
vigorous disposition and sharp temper, this tendency to
procrastinate was maddening.
For months then she applied herself, with Sidney Her-
bert's connivance, to a process which she described as
"bullying the Bison." She wanted action— at once;
whereas the Bison seemed to have an aversion even to
the thought of action. "Appoint the commissioners nowl"
she begged; the Bison answered that he had the gout in
his hands, he could not write. Gout in his hands? Flor-
ence was enraged. "It is the flimsiest of excuses. Keep on
bullying him!" she said to Mr. Herbert. "Threaten him.
Tell him that unless he acts today, you will resign the
A NEW SUMMONS 171
chairmanship!" Mr. Herbert threatened— and the Bison
But Florence held the trump card in this political
game, and in the spring of 1857 she decided to use it.
Suppose she should herself publish the story of the
Crimean campaign— publish it from the housetops, so
that the world would know of the British government's
sins against the British army? She sent word to Lord
Panmure that she would brook no further delay. "Sir, I
shall go to the country with my story!"
As the Bison very well knew, the country was with
Miss Nightingale. The last thing he could afford was to
find himself pitted against her in a public airing of her
cause. For Miss Nightingale was right. Simple justice was
on her side. She was right, and the career of any man
who opposed her now was at stake and would be
So the Bison stirred. The Royal Warrant was issued,
the commissioners named, the commission started its
At her headquarters in Old Burlington Street, Florence
chalked up another triumph. She had forced this action.
But she was rather sure that her report would never be
published, and therefore she arranged to have it printed
and privately circulated at her own expense, as a matter
of record— and as an instrument which, perhaps, she
might have to use again.
She determined to see to it that the commission did not
adopt Lord Panmure's tactics, but should push through
its inquiry with all possible speed.
MORE LAMPS LIGHTED
With the appointment of the royal commission, Flor-
ence had made die first step in her program of reform.
During the summer of 1857, she busied herself with the
second step— that of forcing the commission to accept the
specific aims set forth in her report. Four tilings she
demanded: all army barracks must be rendered sanitary
and livable; an army statistical department must be
organized; an army medical school must be instituted;
the entire army medical department must be revolution-
ized and reconstructed and all existing army hospital
regulations revised to conform with her own scientific
ideas. She could not, of course, be a member of the com-
mission; as a woman, she was barred from any open par-
ticipation in its labors. But she could control it— remain-
ing behind the scenes and working through Sidney Her-
bert, Dr. Sutherland and the other commissioners, all of
whom, with one exception, were sworn to her cause.
She was conscious of her powers. Not only was the
Queen her avowed ally, but she had also the masses of
the British people adoring and trusting her. Besides, she
had so impressed herself upon the public mind that she
was spoken of everywhere as infallibly versed in all ques-
tions of public service. The common belief was that
whatever your problem, Miss Nightingale could solve it
for you. She was wise, she was good, she had the love of
MORE LAMPS LIGHTED
humanity in her heart; and her experience was unlimited.
Little wonder then that pioneers in every conceivable
type of reform came to her with their own pet theories,
asking for help, or that statesmen sought and deferred to
She listened to what they said
They came to the Burlington Hotel, all these people
who wished to see Miss Nightingale, and they waited in
lines outside her door, hoping for the chance. Most of
them she received, for a half -hour at a time; she listened
to what they said and noted any of it that seemed sen-
sible. If any man who might be of assistance to her stayed
174 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
away, she sent for him— and he came as quickly as he
could. She talked with the great and the near-great;
England's Prime Minister was not too proud or too busy
to respond to her summons.
Sidney Herbert was in consultation with her every
day, and Dr. Sutherland quite as often. Indeed, these
three composed the inner "cabinet" of Florence's "Little
War Office"; and between the intervals of her larger
meeting with an ever-increasing company of medical and
social scientists, the small "cabinet" was in almost con-
stant session. Yet even so, the Lady-in-Chief sometimes
felt that Mr. Herbert and Dr. Sutherland could, if they
tried, exert themselves a bit more in her behalf, and at
such times she chided them.
Mr. Herbert had long ago acknowledged Florence as
his guiding star and never protested. But Dr. Sutherland,
a big jovial man, twenty years her senior, would on occa-
sion tease her in fatherly vein about her impatience. "My
dear Lady," he wrote once, replying to an angry note
from Florence, "do not be unreasonable. I would have
been with you yesterday, but, alas, my will was stronger
than my legs. I have been at the Commission today, and
as yet there is nothing to fear. I was too fatigued and too
stupid to see you afterwards, but I intend coming tomor-
row about 12 o'clock, and we can then prepare for the
campaign of the coming week."
But if she seemed to drive these friends incontinently,
she was no less exacting with herself. As Selina Brace-
bridge had said so long ago, Florence was not as well as
she pretended to be and she began to show the strain of
She had gone to Embley for Christmas and again for
a few days in the spring— but her work had followed her
MORE LAMPS LIGHTED 175
there. Parthe declared that she quite hated the sight of
the post with its long official envelopes addressed to
Florence. But to Florence the official envelopes were an
essential, the tools of her trade. Compared with what she
was doing now, all she had accomplished at Scutari was
the merest child's play, she said. Let Parthe and Mamma
and Papa worry about her, if they must. That was not
important. Only her work was important. There were
many times when she was so exhausted that she lay for
hours on the sofa in a sort of stupor, eyes shut, face
pallid, scarcely breathing, as if she had fainted dead
away— but if anyone dared say she was too ill for work,
she would leap up and burst forth in tempestuous denial.
As the summer wore on and her health became worse,
Dr. Sutherland pleaded with her to slacken the furious
pace. With good-natured affection he told her that she
was interested in everybody's sanitary improvement but
her own. "Pray leave us all to ourselves, soldiers and all,
for a while," he said. "We shall all be the better for a
rest." Sidney Herbert added his voice to the argument,
wouldn't she stop for a brief vacation? "I wish you could
be turned into a cross-country squire like me for a few
But no, she would not rest, would not stop. Instead,
she started a new project, that of preparing a document
in which she accounted for the administration of all
funds and gifts sent to her during the war. She was taut
with nerves, like a fine coiled spring that has been wound
too tightly. Why, why, she cried, did people keep peck-
ing at her? These admonitions, these warnings were
echoes from the drawing-rooms of Embley and Lea
Hurst; she had heard them since she was a child; and
she would have none of them.
176 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
By autumn her illness was so marked that she at last
consented to go to Malvern for treatment at the sana-
torium there. Aunt Mai was her companion. When Mal-
vern seemed not to benefit Florence, the two went on to
other health resorts, dragging wearily from place to
place. The doctors who examined her at this time were
baffled by her case. Organically, they said, she was
sound; but the years of over-exertion had shattered her
nervous system; the doctors feared she must be an
incurable invalid for the remainder of her life.
An incurable invalid? Florence was irate at the pro-
nouncement. Learning in November that nurses were
needed for the army in India, she wrote to volunteer her
services— an offer made when she scarcely had strength
to stand alone and, fortunately, the offer was refused.
A month later, Florence became convinced that she
would soon die, and she set about ordering her affairs.
She wrote a letter to Sidney Herbert outlining a course
of action by which he could carry through her reforms,
and expressing regret that she could not stay alive to "do
the nurses," and to spend the money in the Florence
Nightingale Fund with which she had hoped to found a
training-school for her profession. Her inheritance she
was leaving for the building of modern barracks, she said.
She wrote also to Parthe, directing the disposal of all her
personal belongings and keepsakes and asking that she
be buried in the Crimea. She was sad at the thought of
approaching death, but resigned to it because it seemed
God's plan. "Perhaps He wants a 'Sanitary Officer' now
for my Crimeans in some other world where they are
She was still in her suite at the Old Burlington, for she
preferred to die there in the midst of her work, rather
MORE LAMPS LIGHTED 177
than at either of her fathers homes. But the weeks and
the months passed and she did not die— and presently
she was almost magically revived by the publication of
the Royal Commission's report. Miss Nightingale's advice
had been followed in every detail by the men whose
appointments she had secured. Well, now that these
things had been recommended, they must be put into
Immediately she launched into this task, the final step
in her program. Thin and white, propped up with pillows
in her bed, she flung herself into the new work, writing,
writing, studying charts and graphs, compiling statistics,
calling statesmen to her for conferences— with slender,
delicate fingers manipulating the policies of an empire.
In June, 1858, Parthe married Sir Harry Verney. The
event meant little to Florence who was engrossed in
matters of national portent and, as Aunt Mai said, work-
ing as if "each day may be the last on which she will have
power to work." Writing to a friend, Florence commented
that Parthe liked the marriage— "which is the main thing.
And my father is very fond of Sir Harry Verney, which
is the next best thing. He is old and rich, which is a dis-
advantage. He is active, has a will of his own and four
children ready made, which is an advantage. So, on the
whole, I think these reflections tend to approbation."
Perhaps the truth was that Florence had grown so far
from her family that she could be touched only lightly
by anything happening within the family circle. Parthe
and her mother were almost like strangers to her; she had
asked them not to come to the Old Burlington on their
London visits, lest they disturb her at her work; and it
was only infrequently that she ventured to Embley for a
178 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
day or two, traveling in an invalid's conveyance and
waited upon by Aunt Mai or by her friend, Mr. Arthur
Clough, the poet, who had recently attached himself to
Miss Nightingale's staff, somewhat in the role of errand
boy or general factotum. With her father, Florence was
more lenient, permitting him to call upon her at the hotel
whenever he was in London. ("Dear Papa," she wrote,
"I shall always be well enough to see you while this mor-
tal coil is on me at all.") By special appointment, and
sometimes as often as twice a day, he would slip into her
room and sit beside the bed, talking to her for a full half-
hour about religion and philosophy, those subjects which
had always so fascinated him.
Now and then Hilary Bonham Carter came, or some
other cousin, or the Bracebridges or Madame Mohl; and
all were allowed a glimpse of Florence, leaning back
among her pillows, and the counterpane covered with
books, notebooks, writing paraphernalia. But mostly she
saw only such persons as were working with her.
She did not see a great deal even of Aunt Mai who, as
Parthe said, was the "dragon," posted outside her niece's
bedchamber, warding off interlopers.
To an extent, and in a queer way, physical weakness
became a protection to Florence, a haven from the inter-
ruptions and distractions which fret one who leads a
more normal life, an economy measure to conserve time
and energy. Uncle Sam Smith was in charge of her
finances; she never had to bother about money or bills,
for Uncle Sam made sure that she was comfortably main-
tained in the Burlington suite. Dr. Sutherland was always
at hand, assuming the position of confidential secretary
and taking over many taxing small duties. A request to
MORE LAMPS LIGHTED 179
speak to Miss Nightingale must first be scanned by Dr.
Sutherland, who judged whether or not the request
might be worthy of her attention. She saw no one whom
she wished not to see; and yet she could turn away peti-
tioners without offense, since it was well known that she
was an invalid, struggling to perform a splendid and
gigantic work and constantly working beyond her actual
strength. There was Mr. Clough too, who asked for noth-
ing more than the reward of serving Florence— in any
way at all, who was happy just to fetch the mail, or write
her inconsequential letters, or do up packages, or escort
her on infrequent excursions in a closed carriage through
To the British people at large Miss Nightingale was a
lovely symbol, almost a legendary figure, a woman who
had sacrificed (and continued to sacrifice) her youth,
her ease, the pleasures of society, even her health in the
cause of mercy. It was understood that she did not now
appear in public, yet ever and again the rumor would
get about that she had appeared, in the streets, in a res-
taurant or music hall. Then the woman who faintly re-
sembled Miss Nightingale, who had been taken for her,
would be surrounded by worshipful, sentimental throngs
of folk who stretched out their hands to her, crying, "Let
me stroke your shawl, ma'am! Please, ma'am, let me
touch the hem of your skirt!"
When told of such incidents, Florence was humbly
grateful— and vaguely irritated. She had never coveted
fame or applause. She knew that she possessed genius,
but she used it for the relief of God's creatures and she
felt that she deserved no thanks.
Though she had many strings to her bow, many men
of high rank in the realm at her beck and call, there was
180 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
none like Sidney Herbert— probably history has never
known a more unusual friendship than theirs. The asso-
ciation had in it no hint of romance; Mr. Herbert was
happily married and his wife was that person whom
Florence always addressed as "my dearest." Yet no two
comrades ever shared so completely in ideals, ambitions
and purposes as did Florence Nightingale and Sidney
Herbert. On every question they saw eye-to-eye; together
they saw each question whole, the talents of one supple-
menting the talents of the other.
Both were reformers born and bred; both were in-
tensely religious; but of the two, Florence was the leader.
Brave, chivalrous, unselfish and charming though he was,
Sidney Herbert lacked the obstinate, ruthless, almost
fanatical zeal which was so much a part of Florence's
character. He regarded her as his superior in all things;
she commanded and he obeyed. Several hours of every
day he spent with her, and the times between their meet-
ings he interspersed with notes and messages.
So superbly did Florence manage her campaign that by
1861 every one of her proposed reforms had been ef-
fected and a new era in the welfare and efficiency of the
British army had dawned. In the future there would be
no such cruelties of neglect as had been endured by the
troops in the Crimea. From this time forward, British
soldiers wherever they were, would be quartered in bar-
racks and hospitals which were correctly heated and
lighted; their water supply would be ample and pure;
their food would be properly cooked and tiieir health
Florence Nightingale was responsible for all these
changes. Yet, having brought them into being, she was
still not quite satisfied. The War Office itself had not
been reorganized; she saw it as an old, outmoded, creak-
ing machine, tied around with red tape which she had
always detested— and she determined that it, too, must
During most of the five-year period since her return
from the Crimea, Sidney Herbert had been Secretary for
War in the British cabinet, the indefatigable champion
of all reform measures; and to him Florence now looked
for assistance in her latest endeavor. Florence, in her
sanctuary at the Burlington Hotel, would draw up the
plans, which Mr. Herbert must then put into practice.
182 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
Root and branch, the War Office must be modernized;
Florence did not doubt that together she and Sidney
Herbert could bring it about.
There was, of course, antagonism from the start. Those
men who had for years served in the War Office were
instantly suspicious and set themselves to resist the
reorganization. One among them, Sir Benjamin Hawes,
the permanent Under-Secretary, was especially un-
friendly to the idea of change.
"Our scheme," said Florence, "will probably result in
Ben Hawes' resignation, and that is another of its advan-
But Ben Hawes himself had no notion of resigning—
not, at least, without a battle. He had long been a fixture
in his job and meant to stay.
In the midst of the preliminary skirmishing, which
Florence thoroughly enjoyed, Sidney Herbert suddenly
fell ill. Or perhaps his illness was not so sudden, after all,
for he had never been a physically robust man; he had
been working without respite, and a year earlier he had
been severely stricken with pleurisy. Anyway, he now
was so far from well that doctors told him he must retire
from public life, he must rest— or risk a total breakdown.
No news could have seemed more disastrous to Flor-
ence Nightingale, and she received it first with skepticism
and then with resentment. Sidney Herbert retiring be-
cause of illness? But that was absurd! She herself had
been ill all this while— so ill, indeed, that she scarcely
ever rose from her bed! Yet she had never once thought
of stopping work. Did the doctors say that Sidney Her-
bert had a fatal disease? What nonsense! "You know,"
exclaimed Florence, "I don't believe in fatal diseases."
She sent for him and he came to consult with her, and
heroine's progress 183
she told him that he could not rest until the War Office
had been reformed; the goal was so near, so very near,
that he could not turn back now. He had been created a
baron recently and as Lord Herbert he was entitled to a
seat in the House of Lords. Why not, said Florence, give
up his seat in the House of Commons and seek the com-
parative quiet of the House of Lords, remaining at the
War Office, but taking things at a more leisurely stride?
Herbert reluctantly assented to this compromise. He
would do as Florence said.
She was delighted. "One fight more," she cried, "the
best and the last!"
So, for several more months, the fight went on— with
Sidney Herbert's condition growing steadily weaker.
Now he was attacked by fainting fits, and there were
days when it was only by sipping brandy that he could
keep on his feet. He listened as Florence spurred him on,
cheering and encouraging him; but he knew finally that
he had reached the end of his efforts. He would never be
able to reform the War Office; and the dreadful moment
had arrived when he must go to Florence and tell her of
He wrote out his resignation, and on July 9 he called
at Florence's hotel to bid her good-bye before his depar-
ture for a hospital at Spa. Florence greeted him coldly,
with reproaches. He said sadly that he was beaten.
"Beaten?" she repeated. "Don't you see that you've
simply thrown away the game? And with all the winning
cards in your hands! And so noble a game! Sidney Her-
bert beaten! Beaten by Ben Hawes! It is a disgrace— a
worse disgrace than the hospitals at Scutari!"
This was their farewell, for he was never to see her
again. On July 25 he was removed from Spa to his pala-
tial and beloved home at Wilton, where a week later he
died. His last murmurings before he lapsed into uncon-
sciousness were of Florence.
This was their farewell
"Poor Florence! Poor Florence! Our joint work unfin-
What was her reaction to this calamity? She was wild
with grief, she was inconsolable. Sidney Herbert dead?
Gone— gone beyond recall? It could not be true!
heroine's progress 185
But it was true, and when the fact was borne in upon
her, she stifled her sobs and wrote long letters in praise
of him, extolling his virtues as a friend, a Christian, an
English gentleman. She wrote a memorandum on his
achievements as an army reformer and sent this paper
to Mr. Gladstone so that it might become a public record
for all to read. Everything she herself had accomplished
owed its success to Sidney Herbert, she said. Everything!
He had been the "head and center" of it all. If remorse
tinged her sorrow, if she felt that she had in any way
hastened his collapse, she did not say so; but always
afterward, whether in writing or speaking she referred to
Sidney Herbert as her "dear master" and cherished his
image in her heart.
The months which followed were difficult for Florence.
Twice more misfortune struck at her. Arthur Clough died
the next spring, a genuine bereavement, for the poet in
his modest, self-effacing manner had made himself al-
most indispensable, each day doing dozens of small serv-
ices and kindnesses to accommodate Miss Nightingale
and lighten her burdens. Perhaps she hadn't sufficiently
appreciated Arthur Clough or the quality of his devotion
while he lived; but when he died she sorely missed him.
She could not bear to open a newspaper lest she see his
name in print and be reminded of her loss; and she some-
times wondered dismally whether she hadn't relied too
much upon him and been "a drag upon his health and
Grief of another but no less poignant sort came to her
from the most unexpected of all sources— from Aunt Mai
Smith who, shortly after Clough's death, said that she
must leave Florence and live again with her own family.
186 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
This to Florence seemed desertion— nothing else!— and
she was wrathful. In vain Aunt Mai explained her rea-
sons; she was now sixty-three years old, she said, and felt
that she had earned a rest; her children and husband
needed her; she wanted to be at home rather than posted,
a "dragon," outside Florence's closed door. For these last
four years, though every day in written communication
with her famous niece, and only a few paces away, Aunt
Mai hadn't seen Florence even once to speak to! Probably
the loneliness of such an assignment had palled upon
Aunt Mai; at any rate, she asked to be released.
Well, Florence could not hold Aunt Mai against her
will, but she interpreted her going as disloyalty, as proof
that she totally lacked understanding of the lofty causes
for which Florence toiled. Evidently the business of re-
form meant nothing to Aunt Mai or she could not thus
throw it all over at the slightest pretext. What fools,
what utterly worthless creatures women were! In a tow-
ering rage, Florence wrote to Madame Mohl, pouring out
the bitterness of her feeling against Aunt Mai. "I am sick
with indignation at what wives and mothers will do out
of the most egregious selfishness. And people call it all
maternal or conjugal affection and think it pretty to say
But Aunt Mai left, just the same; and it was not until a
very long time afterward that the breach was healed—
and then only partially.
To "save something from the wreckage," Florence
plunged into her work. It was her infallible refuge; it
could not die, deceive or disappoint her. It was all that
mattered in the world, and there was plenty of it to do.
She sank herself in work, knowing that unlike human
relationships it could never betray her.
heroine's progress 187
Her activities during the ensuing few years were so
many and varied as to defy enumeration, and to them
all she brought that penetrating vision and intellect-
ual skill which made certain their success.
The Civil War was then starting in the United States;
and she was drawn into a correspondence with the Amer-
ican Secretary of War, advising him, providing him with
statistics, rendering aid which was warmly welcomed
and could not have been obtained elsewhere.
She published her Notes on Nursing and Notes on Hos-
pitals, two detailed, instructive pamphlets which, printed
and reprinted, were hailed as the clearest expositions on
the subjects ever written, and were in reality the basis
for all methods of modern treatment of the sick. No hos-
pital was built in England without her inspection and
approval of the plans.
She undertook and carried through to a victorious con-
clusion the introduction of sanitation in India, and the
formation of a royal commission to do there what had
been done for the British army at home. This was, if any-
thing, a more enormous feat *han any other she had at-
tempted, a splendid labor of such scope as to affect and
improve the lives of literally millions of people in that
distant land where she had never been. She became the
authority on all Indian matters for the British govern-
ment; engineers and municipal officials sent her their
plans for drainage and water facilities, and commissariat
officials consulted her on soldiers' rations and victualing
arrangements, and medical officers wrote to her for an-
swers to their problems. Whatever progress was made in
India was due in no small part to the imagination and
sagacity of a bedridden woman in a London hotel room.
For many years it was the custom for the newly ap-
188 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
pointed Viceroy, before he left England, to pay a visit to
Miss Nightingale who would inform him concisely and
accurately about the situation which he faced.
The foundation of the Nightingale Training School for
Nurses was another event of this crowded, fruitful period.
Since the time of its collection, the Nightingale fund had
been invested in the name of a board of trustees, await-
ing the moment when Florence should administer it.
Now she chose St. Thomas' Hospital in London as the
location for her school; she mapped the courses of study
and started the first classes. Though she did not go to the
hospital to witness her nurses at their routine, she kept
the strictest account of them and was familiar with every-
thing they did. As the school settled into smooth-running
order, its graduates went out, like a body of apostles,
carrying with them the knowledge they had absorbed
and proving to the world how well they had been trained.
As a natural sequel to her training of nurses, Florence
turned next to the appalling need for reform in English
workhouses and infirmaries. This had weighed upon her
since the long-ago days when she had taught in the
London Ragged Schools and observed the piteous straits
of the great city's paupers and destitute. It was among
such people that the old-fashioned nurses held sway—
the drunken, blundering and often immoral attendants
hired by thoughtless public officials to preside over public
institutions and the indigent poor for whom nobody
seemed to have any real concern and who were power-
less to better their circumstances.
In Liverpool an experiment in district nursing was be-
ing made and, as usual, Miss Nightingale was solicited
for advice. But in this case, she gave more than advice;
she co-operated by sending twelve of her St. Thomas'
heroine's progress 189
nurses to Liverpool where they not only set up a system
of district nursing but took charge of the workhouse and
converted it to a model institution. Within ten years
trained nurses were serving in infirmaries all over the
country and the old, vicious methods had faded into
At the same time, while directing the Liverpool ven-
ture, Florence was exerting pressure for the enactment
of new Poor Laws, so that the former evils could never
recur. In this, as in everything, she was successful. "From
the first," said one of her fellow- workers, "I had a sort of
fixed faith that Florence Nightingale could do anything,
and that faith is still firm in me, and so it came to pass
that the instant that name entered the lists I felt the fight
was virtually won."
It was an age for reform in England. A comer seemed
to have been turned, an era left behind. The public con-
science was waking from old apathy, the desire to rem-
edy old evils was everywhere, stirring, in the air; the
inherent rights of the common man were coming to be
Perhaps even without Florence Nightingale some of
these advancements might eventually have been realized
—slowly, after long, damaging delays. But to Florence
Nightingale must go full credit for hastening the proc-
esses of reform, setting them in motion and then pushing
them relentlessly toward the climax which conquered all
obstacles to progress. Stubborn and fiery she was, striving
for perfection and pleased with nothing less, imbued her-
self with a demon of industry and having the godlike
ability to transmit her fervor to others, the personal
magnetism of an evangelist, the sweeping eloquence of
190 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
an exhorter. Thus, she was the principal exponent, the
mainspring of all good things which the years of reforma-
La Vie de Florence Rossignol . . . Writing each night
in her diary, she must frequently have thought of the
first slim volume in the series, that one written in school-
girl French for the governess, dear Miss Christie. The
life of Florence Nightingale? What a glorious chronicle
it had become!
The story of a heroine . . .
AT HOME IN SOUTH STREET
From the moment of Sidney Herbert's death, Florence
had been dissatisfied with her suite at the Burlington
Hotel. Somehow, it seemed haunted by memories of him.
She seemed always to see his handsome, courtly figure
seated beside her, to hear his voice. Also the ghost of
Arthur Clough was there ("He used to tell me how the
leaves were coining out," she said, "knowing that, with-
out his eyes, I should never see the spring again!")— and
the imagined presence of Aunt Mai. These three who
had been so helpful and now had gone. "I am glad," she
wrote (most sorrowfully), "to end a day which can
never come back, gladdest to end a month."
For several years she moved about, seeking a home of
her own in which to settle down, finally taking a house at
No. 10 South Street, which her father leased for her and
which, except for rare intervals, she was to occupy for
nearly a half -century.
The house was small and pleasant, rather like a tower
in structure, having four floors besides basement and
attic. On each floor were two rooms, a big one with large
windows facing south, a little one with northern exposure.
On the ground floor was a dining-room, lined with book-
cases, and a sunny, balconied drawing-room, Victorian
in style, with more bookcases and a sofa upon which
Florence reclined whenever she ventured downstairs.
192 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
The second-floor rooms were literally filled with books
and boxes and cupboards of paper and files of corre-
spondence which accumulated rapidly and were never
destroyed. But Miss Nightingale's bedroom above was
less businesslike and more attractive— a bright, airy,
peaceful chamber with white walls and windows which
had no blinds or curtains to keep out the light or obstruct
the view. Here the furnishings were cheerful; a com-
fortable bed, tables and chairs conveniently located; pic-
tures, a rose-shaded lamp, bowls of flowers sent up from
the gardens at Embley and Lea Hurst in season.
On the top floor of the house was a guest room, and
sometimes Florence had guests staying with her for a
few days or a week. This did not necessarily mean that
the guests were entertained personally by their hostess;
usually they never laid eyes on her at all, but were
granted the freedom of her hospitality— and read the
notes she wrote them, which were brought by a maid or
As Florence said to Madame Mohl, "I am obliged (by
my ill-health ) to make Life an Art, to be always thinking
of it; because otherwise I should do nothing."
The demands made upon her time and attention were
constant, her mail was a vast flood of pamphlets, period-
icals, letters. Her father had made her a liberal allow-
ance, which was turned over to Mr. Sam Smith who paid
the household accounts and distributed all surplus money
at Florence's wish. Her way of living was so simple that
she could give financial aid to many charities, and these
she chose with care. But the begging letters, the appeals
from every type of eccentric and crank, the ridiculous
proposals of marriage which poured in upon her, Uncle
Sam must deal with. The directions Florence scribbled to
AT HOME IN SOUTH STREET 193
Mr. Smith were characteristically definite: "Choke off
this woman and tell her that I shall never be well enough
to see her, here or hereafter."— "These miserable eccle-
siastical quacks! Could you give them a lesson?"— "Dear
Uncle Sam, please choke off this idiot."
All legitimate requests to see Miss Nightingale passed
through the hands of Dr. Sutherland, who presided as
her private secretary and chief steward in the drawing-
room below. To Dr. Sutherland came at one time or
another most of the dignitaries and celebrities, states-
men, scholars and politicians, reformers by the score, of
England— and, indeed, of the civilized world— applying
for an audience with the great lady whose approval or
disapproval meant the difference between a cause's
triumph or defeat. The truly unlucky applicants were
those who never reached Miss Nightingale, whom Dr.
Sutherland rejected at first glance. But what was the pro-
cedure for those more fortunate, upon whom Dr. Suther-
land smiled rather than frowned?
Once told that you could see Miss Nightingale, a day
and hour were set and you waited for your appointment.
Then, at last, you were ushered to her upper room, you
sat on a straight-backed chair at a proper distance from
her bedside— she questioned you and you answered.
Your conversation was strictly in the nature of an inter-
view, nothing else, with no small talk, no wasted mo-
ments. You put your subject before Miss Nightingale,
and almost instantly she had grasped it. Her mind was
like a keen-edged knife cutting through complications to
the gist of the matter. She might seem little and fragile
lying there, but that was a deception. Only her body was
fragile. Her intellect was quick, penetrating, strong; and
whatever words you uttered had significance to her; she
understood them, they were a part of her own informa-
tion. You might have studied this thing, but you soon
discovered that she too had studied it— and her' knowl-
edge probably went deeper than yours.
She might seem little and fragile
The conversation at an end, you rose and said good-
bye and took yourself away, for there were others wait-
ing, dozens of others, in a schedule divided for just such
brief visits. And the lady must not be wearied!
One person at a time was admitted to the room. Miss
AT HOME IN SOUTH STREET 195
Nightingale received all her callers singly. For many
years she never heard two other persons talking together
or was included in a group where the talk was general.
No person, even though a member of the household, ever
entered the room by chance, no one ever appeared unex-
pectedly. If you saw Miss Nightingale at all, it was by
express invitation and arrangement— and she, not you,
determined the length of your visit.
When you were out of the room, you realized that
quietly, courteously, tactfully, she had dismissed you.
And that was that. Well, you would never forget her.
After 1868 Florence toiled less strenuously at public
reforms. The government had changed, many of her in-
fluential allies had retired; and though she still retained
powerful contacts, she herself ( as she phrased it ) "went
out of office." But she was industrious as ever, for now
she could more closely supervise her training school for
This became her main activity. She saw to the moving
of the institution to a better site, and then she took it in
hand, much as if she were the headmistress of a girls'
boarding school and the nurses her pupils.
She was very particular about the kind of young woman
enrolling in training classes; she interviewed each candi-
date and it was only with her consent that one could be
accepted. After these interviews, Miss Nightingale wrote
down a memorandum of the impression made upon her
by the visitor— what seemed to be this girl's attainments,
what were her chances to be graduated and then to be
useful in the world? Florence found such efforts gruell-
ing and not always to her liking. . "It takes a great deal
196 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
out of me," she wrote to a friend. "God meant me for a
reformer and I have turned out a detective." But it was,
she thought, a duty which she must not shirk.
From her South Street home she exercised a remote
control of all that went on in the school. Dr. Sutherland
did the inspecting very regularly and thoroughly; from
his reports, Florence drew her conclusions and checked
upon the institution's welfare. She considered and dic-
tated how the nurses should spend their holidays, she
planned their futures, she had them come to her house,
one at a time, for tea; she offered her guest room as a
hostel for the matrons and teachers on their annual vaca-
She sent gifts of books and fruit to the nurses' dormi-
tories and in summer the hospital was decorated with
huge bouquets of rhododendrons from the Embley bor-
ders. Each January she wrote a New Year's address,
which her brother-in-law, Sir Harry Verney, read aloud
to the entire school in solemn assembly, in a hall gar-
landed with Lea Hurst evergreen boughs. The gentle
wisdom of Miss Nightingale's words, delivered by Sir
Harry, was a feature of the school calendar; and after-
ward, her address was printed and each nurse presented
with a copy.
The detailed supervision lavished upon the students
followed them as they went out into service; Florence
kept her young women in sight, watching over them as a
mother guards and guides her daughters. She corre-
sponded with hundreds of them, receiving and answer-
ing thousands of letters every year from all corners of the
globe where the Nightingale graduates were demonstrat-
ing the soundness of their training. Because of her effi-
ciency and insistence upon an excellent preparation, the
AT HOME IN SOUTH STREET 197
standards for nursing were raised throughout the British
Empire and in many countries across the seas.
She had a profound conviction about the work of nurs-
ing—which in time led to a prolonged debate with those
experts who were promoting the movement for passage
of a Nurses Registration Act.
To Florence, nursing was first and last a religious en-
deavor, as much so as the vocation of a nun; she was
unalterably against any dissenting opinion, she had noth-
ing but scorn for persons who regarded it as a business,
she shrank from hearing it spoken of as a profession. A
nurse, she said, should feel that hers was a high and
sacred dedication, in which she was charged with the
care of souls. Thus, moral and spiritual motives must be
the nurse's best equipment, religious aims her vital qual-
ity. Such intangibles could never be registered, could
they? No!— and the woman who looked at nursing as
primarily a means of livelihood was not worthy of being
a nurse at all!
The refuting argument to such reasoning might be that
Miss Nightingale's experiences had been extraordinary;
in her own case, the necessity of earning a livelihood had
been absent. She could well afford to say that wages and
salaries were no factor; she had known only conditions
of financial security, even affluence; she had never been
paid for her work and did not want or need to be paid—
by contrast, she had donated large sums to the work from
her large income. But, if her ideas prevailed, would not
nursing soon be an endeavor— or a business, a profession
—limited in membership only to women who had both
leisure and wealth in combination with a religious in-
spiration? How many such women were there? Where
were they to be found?
198 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
Though she fought bitterly in opposition, the majority
of trained nurses came to endorse registration, and Flor-
ence had to bow to the inevitable. But she was unrecon-
ciled. The whole matter annoyed and grieved her— it was
like those instances when one of the Nightingale nurses
married and Florence, furiously protesting, could do
nothing to prevent the nonsense!
Strangely, perhaps, Miss Nightingale was never an
advocate of feminism. Though herself an outstanding
example of a woman who had contended against prodi-
gious odds and carved out a career in fields always before
barred to her sex, she had no wish to vote. The devious
ways of politics all were known to her; the methods and
policies of government were like an open book. Yet she
did not favor the participation of women in either poli-
tics or government. In a day when the woman suffrage
sentiment was born, and struggled into the ascendancy,
she was unresponsive. Several of her women friends were
ardent champions of the feminist cause— she would not
embrace it. Indeed, she seldom mentioned it, but went
on working for the uplifting and salvation of the human
race as a whole, not discriminating between the sexes.
Probably she had never thought of herself as downtrod-
den or victimized by men (nor had she been!) and in
her various campaigns she had labored beside men, trust-
ing them and conscious of her equality with the best of
If this was an old-fashioned attitude, so also was
her antagonism for the theory of microbes, developed
through the scientific research of Pasteur and Lister.
Bacteriology was a study she would never undertake,
the idea that disease was spread by germs seemed absurd
to her. She had not met with microbes in the Crimea—
AT HOME IN SOUTH STREET 199
at least, she thought she hadn't. No, she had met only
with dirt, lack of proper food, ventilation and sanitaiy
facilities; from them, not from germs, sickness and mis-
ery had resulted. These things she had seen and could
therefore believe. But had she ever seen a microbe? Cer-
tainly not! She would not then acknowledge the exist-
ence of microbes. Dr. Sutherland infuriated her by his
interest, his belief, in them.
During the years she was increasingly dependent upon
Dr. Sutherland's help and companionship, and often very
impatient with him. She consulted him about everything,
and begrudged those hours which he spent away from
South Street. He had a house at Norwood and a little
garden in which he liked to relax. Florence disapproved
of both house and garden, and if he said he could not
immediately do whatever she asked of him, she flung
reproaches at him. Sometimes Dr. Sutherland rebelled
at this tyranny; but usually he did as he was told. His
good humor was such that he forgave Miss Nightingale's
scoldings. "Thanks for your parting kick," he once wrote,
"which is always pleasant to receive by them as likes it."
And he retorted with teasing. When Florence asked him
to fill in her census form and define her occupation, he
As one commentator has said, Dr. Sutherland's wife,
who also was devoted to Miss Nightingale, must often
have welcomed home a very tired and exasperated man.
TRIALS AND TRIUMPHS
To Florence Nightingale must be given much of the
world's gratitude for the International Red Cross Society.
This most wonderful of all humanitarian organizations
was founded by the Swiss philanthropist, Henri Dunant,
as an aftermath of the battle of Solferino.
Speaking in London in 1872, Monsieur Dunant said:
"What inspired me to go to Italy during the war of 1859
was the work of Miss Florence Nightingale in the
Appealed to for encouragement and help in the fram-
ing of the earliest Red Cross Convention, Florence had
joined the movement immediately; the British delegates
setting out in 1864 for the International Congress were
armed with her written instructions which were meticu-
lously followed in every detail. With the outbreak of the
Franco-Prussian War in 1870, more calls reached Flor-
ence in her South Street seclusion.
Though from the first a party to the Geneva Conven-
tion, the British government had done nothing toward
the actual formation of a Red Cross Society, but now this
step must be taken. What was more natural than to look
to Miss Nightingale for leadership? The temporary com-
mittee appointed in 1870 conferred with Florence; and
largely through her whole-hearted co-operation, the Brit-
ish Red Cross Aid Society soon emerged as a reality.
TRIALS AND TRIUMPHS 201
Miss Nightingale said that had she not been confined
to a sick bed, she would have volunteered for service on
the battle front. As it was, she could work only as her
physical impairments permitted— but she would do her
utmost! Her letters read at public meetings brought forth
rounds of deafening applause and incited a general en-
thusiasm for the infant organization.
Throughout the Franco-Prussian War, Florence was
closely involved with the work of the Red Cross, both in
England and abroad. Relatives and friends of hers were
sent to inspect the hospitals of France and Germany, and
their reports returned to her; Dr. Sutherland attended to
much of the Society's correspondence; and Florence her-
self was diligent in the collection of money and gifts for
Of course, she was deluged with inquiries of all sorts.
The French asked her for plans for field hospitals; the
Crown Princess of Prussia begged for advice and assist-
ance. Later the Crown Princess came in person to South
Street— a visit which resulted in the introduction of
Nightingale nurses into Prussian hospitals and a great
improvement in German nursing methods.
Florence's sympathies were rather with the French in
this conflict; but she was conscientiously impartial and
strove for the alleviation of distress in both countries.
Now that she was "out of office," she wrote extensively
on religious subjects, picking up again the Suggestions
for Thought, that book begun so long ago, when it had
seemed she was forever imprisoned in the Embley draw-
ing-room, and almost forgotten in the crowded after-
years. Now she wished again to analyze her own religion.
She was a churchwoman, but had never gone much to
202 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
church— as superintendent for the Harley Street "gentle-
women's" home, she used to hide on Sunday mornings
so that the inmates would not be shocked to discover she
was not a churchgoer. Her convictions were unorthodox,
she knew, but very sincere and firm; she felt that she
must crystallize and put neatly on paper her special
creed, her confidence in God's infinite goodness.
In this she was urged on by Benjamin Jowett, the Eng-
lish scholar and theologian, master of Balliol College,
Oxford, who had become perhaps her most intimate
friend. Indeed, Dr. Jowett's cordiality compensated, to a
degree, for the loss of Sidney Herbert, though this was
an association of a different kind. Mr. Herbert had been
Florence's partisan and collaborator; the master of Bal-
liol sustained her with spiritual solace.
Yet even with Dr. Jowett's friendship to lean upon,
and the series of voluminous letters they exchanged, and
the expansion and clarifying of her Suggestions for
Thought, she had many hours of utter dejection, when
she was oppressed with the feeling of failure, futility.
She was middle-aged, lonely; the isolation she had fos-
tered and still clung to, did not bring happiness. Except
when immersed in work, she had the nagging sensation
Insomnia troubled her; and at night, lying sleepless,
she would reach for the pencil and notebook always on
her bedside table and write memoranda of her reflec-
tions. Melancholy jottings they were, filled with doubt
and self-reproach: "Oh, my Creator, Thou knowest that
through all these 20 horrible years I have been supported
by the belief that I was working with Thee Who wert
bringing every one of us, even our poor nurses, to perfec-
tion."— "Oh, Lord my God, patience is very necessary for
TRIALS AND TRIUMPHS 203
me, for I perceive that many things in this life do fall out
as we would not."— "O Lord, even now I am trying to
snatch the management of Thy world out of Thy hands."
—"Too little have I looked for something higher and bet-
ter than my own work."
In 1874 Florence's father died suddenly; and in the
midst of mourning for him, she had to pause and see to
legal and business affairs. Mr. Nightingale's sister, Aunt
Mai Smith, was heir to his land and his two country
houses, while his daughters, Parthe and Florence, inher-
ited other properties. This meant that Mrs. Nightingale
must be provided for. Mamma was eighty-six now, and
Florence must be in part responsible for her. It was
arranged that she should live in London with a nephew,
but should have annual autumn sojourns at Lea Hurst.
Florence disliked the unavoidable interruptions of all
such decisions. "Oh, God," she exclaimed, "let me not
sink in these perplexities, but give me a great cause to do
and die for! I am so disturbed by my family that I can't
do my work."
But she and Mamma were now quite reconciled and
on more affectionate terms than ever before. Mrs. Night-
ingale had ceased to be critical of this "swan" she had
hatched. "You would have done nothing in life, Flo,"
she once said, "if you had not resisted me."
Florence was able to see her mother rather often in
London and she visited her at Lea Hurst on several occa-
sions. Once she rented a villa in Norwood and tried the
experiment of their living together— which lasted for a
period of a few weeks. The villa was painted red and was
hideous; "like a monster lobster," Florence said, and she
soon left it.
"This is the only time for 22 years," she wrote, "that
204 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
my work has not been the first cause for where I should
live and how I should live. It is the caricature of a life!"
Mrs. Nightingale ended her days at Lea Hurst, a very,
very old lady, whose mind had clouded. "Where is Flor-
ence?" she would ask. "Is she still in her hospital? I sup-
pose she will never marry now."
As the years passed, Florence's health seemed to mend.
The nervous malady disappeared; she was almost en-
tirely well. After her mother's death, she never went back
to Lea Hurst; but she saw something of Parthe, who, with
her husband, had a house in South Street only a stone's
throw distant from Florence's house. Sir Harry Verney's
beautiful country place was Claydon, in Buckingham-
shire; and infrequently Florence stayed there with her
Florence had grown to be very fond of Sir Harry and
had made friends with his children. Sometimes she drove
in Sir Harry's carriage or walked in the park with him.
In 1882 her health was so nearly normal that she accom-
panied Sir Harry to the opening of the new Law Courts
—where she was recognized by Queen Victoria. "Look!"
said the Queen, "Isn't that Miss Nightingale? It is,
That same year she paid her first and only visit to St.
Thomas' and with her own eyes saw the quarters of her
nurses' training school. Again squired by Sir Harry, she
witnessed the arrival of the Grenadier Guards at the rail-
way station, fresh from their Egyptian campaign; and at
Mr. Gladstone's invitation, she watched a military parade
and review of the troops.
Her work in this period consisted of further reforms
for India and a more comprehensive study of nursing
TRIALS AND TRIUMPHS
problems; and she accomplished much of value, fear-
lessly forging ahead into new and untried paths of prog-
ress. It was only habit, perhaps, which kept her shut
She witnessed the arrival of the Grenadier Guards
away most of the time in her bright, airy upper room, the
world shut out; she had come to prefer this sheltered
solitary existence, finding in it peace, order, and a retreat
from the acclaim which would surely have been heaped
206 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
upon her, had she opened her doors to the normal activi-
ties of life.
In 1891, Dr. Sutherland died, and then except for
servants, she was quite alone at No. 10 South Street. But
Dr. Jowett, her nurses and privileged friends continued
to call. And she was always busy.
Her interest in the British army never abated. Any
reference to the splendid character of England's fighting
man would bring a sparkle to her glance, a smile to her
"The soldier," she would remark, "is a very expensive
article!" But how admirable he was, how deserving of all
that was done for him!
On Balaclava Day, October 25, 1897, she wrote greet-
ings to the Crimean veterans, addressing them as "My
dear old Comrades." During the Boer War, she helped
again with the nursing program.
She was softer with the years, more amiable, her fiery
She was softer with the years
208 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
Among the nurses at St. Thomas' were a favored few,
young enough to be her granddaughters, with whom she
was tender, endearing, nicknaming them as "The Pearl,"
or "The Goddess." She was thoughtful of all the young
cousins in the family, and of Arthur Clough's children;
she sent them presents and notes; she was "Ever your
loving Aunt Florence." Advancing age made it necessary
that she have a nurse to care for her, and she did not
object. But at night, after the nurse had tucked her into
bed, Florence would clamber out, patter into the next
room and tuck in the nurse.
By her express wish she now lived very quietly, re-
moved from stress and turmoil and well content to be,
asking nothing but her precious solitude— and rest at
She refused to have her photograph taken and when
she was besought to allow a statue of herself to be shown
at Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebration in 1897,
she replied, with a flash of her former temper, but smil-
ing, "I won't be made a sign at an exhibition!"
Finally she yielded, and the statue was displayed.
"I hope it gets smashed!" said Florence.
The statue did not get smashed. Instead, it was decked
each day with wreaths of flowers by people who de-
lighted in the gesture of homage.
For though she was so old now, and the past slipping
away into dimness, the century turning, Queen Victoria
dead and Edward VII on the throne— though Florence
Nightingale had renounced the world and its activities,
she was still more than a memory to a nation which had
adored her. She was still the idol she had always been.
In December, 1908, England conferred upon her the
Order of Merit, the greatest honor within the power of
the realm to bestow, and the first time it had ever been
offered a woman.
Sir Douglas Dawson, King Edward's emissary, brought
the Order of Merit to her South Street chamber. There
was no ceremony. Florence was eighty-eight, feeble; for
months she had been rather vague about her surround-
ings, many tilings. Perhaps she didn't quite know who
the gentleman was or why he had come. But she was
polite, seemed to be appreciative.
"Too kind," she murmured. "Too kind."
She died August 13, 1910, between night and morn-
ing, falling asleep as usual and never waking. The gov-
ernment said she must be buried in Westminster Abbey
—but the surviving relatives declined. Florence wouldn't
have liked such pomp and circumstance; and, anyway,
she had left directions about her funeral. It must be as
simple as possible, she had said.
They buried her, then, at East Wellow, beside her
father and mother, in the churchyard near Embley. Six
stalwart army sergeants bore the flag-draped coffin along
the country road, where the neighbors had gathered in
a silent throng.
At the grave a hymn was sung, just one, but militant
and challenging it was, appropriate to the day, the hour
—to Florence Nightingale:
"The son of God goes forth to war,
His blood-red banner streams afar . . .
Who follows in His train?"
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