Read “THE LADY WITH THE LAMP.” of Beneath the Banner, free online book, by F. J. Cross, on ReadCentral.com.

THE STORY OF FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE.

“Lo! in that house of misery
A lady with a lamp I see
Pass through the glimmering gloom,
And flit from room to room.”

LONGFELLOW.

“She would speak to one and another, and nod and smile to many more, but she could not do it to all, you know, for we lay there by hundreds; but we could kiss her shadow as it fell, and lay our heads on our pillows again, content.”

So wrote one of the soldiers from the hospital at Scutari of Florence Nightingale, the soldier’s nurse, and the soldier’s friend.

Let us see how it happened that Florence Nightingale was able to do so much for the British soldiers who fought in the Crimea, and why she has left her mark on the history of our times.

Miss Nightingale was born in the city of Florence in the year 1820, and it is from that beautiful Italian town that she derives her Christian name.

Her father was a good and wealthy man, who took great interest in the poor; and her mother was ever seeking to do them some kindness.

Thus Florence saw no little of cottage folk. She took them dainties when they were ailing, and delighted to nurse them when ill.

She loved all dumb animals, and they seemed to know by instinct that she was their friend. One day she came across her father’s old shepherd, looking as miserable as could be; and, on inquiring the cause, found that a mischievous boy had thrown a stone at his favourite dog, which had broken its leg, and he was afraid it would have to be killed.

Going together to the shepherd’s home they found the dog very excited and angry; but, on Florence speaking to it in her gentle voice, it came and lay down at her feet, and allowed her to examine the damaged limb.

Happily, she discovered it was only bruised; and she attended to it so skilfully that the dog was soon running about in the field again. A few days later she met the shepherd, he was simply beaming, for the dog had recovered and was with him.

When Florence spoke to the man the dog wagged its tail as much as to say, “I’m mighty glad to see you again”; whereupon the shepherd remarked: “Do look at the dog, miss, he be so pleased to hear your voice”.

The fact that even her dolls were properly bandaged when their limbs became broken, or the sawdust began to run out of their bodies, will show that even then she was a thoughtful, kindly little person.

When she grew up she wished very much to learn how to nurse the sick.

But in those days it was not considered at all a ladylike thing to do; and, after trying one or two nursing institutions at home, she went to Germany, and afterwards to Paris, in order to make a study of the subject, and to get practical experience in cities abroad.

Miss Nightingale thus learnt nursing very thoroughly, and when she came back to England turned her knowledge to account by taking charge of an institution in London. By good management, tact and skill, the institution became a great success; but she was too forgetful of self, and after a time the hard work told upon her health, and she was obliged to take a rest from her labours.

The time came when the Russian war broke out and Great Britain and France sent their armies into the Crimea. Our men fought like heroes. But it was found out ere many months had passed that those brave fellows, who were laying down their lives for the sake of their country, were being so badly nursed when they were sick and wounded that more were being slain by neglect than by the guns of the enemy.

Then there arose a great cry in Britain; and every one demanded that something should be done to remedy this state of things. But nobody knew quite what to do or how to do it, except one woman, and that woman was Florence Nightingale.

Mr. Sidney Herbert, the War Minister, was one of the very few people who knew anything about her great powers of organisation; and happily he did know how thoroughly fit she was for the task of properly directing the nursing of the sick soldiers.

So, on the 15th October, 1854, he asked her to go to the Crimea to take entire charge of the nursing arrangements; and in less than a week she started with about forty nurses for Scutari, the town where the great hospital was situated.

All Britain was stirred with admiration at her heroism; for it was well known how difficult was the task she was undertaking. But the quiet gentle woman herself feared neither death, disease nor hard work; the only thing she did not like was the fuss the people made about her.

Scutari, whither she went, is situated on the eastern side of the Bosphorus, opposite Constantinople. Thither the sick and wounded soldiers were being brought by hundreds. It took four or five days to get them from the field of battle to the hospital, their wounds during that tame being generally unattended to. When they arrived at Scutari, it was difficult to land them; after that there was a steep hill up which they had to be carried to the hospital, so that by the time they arrived they were generally in a sad condition. But their trials were not over then. The hospital was dirty and dismal. There was no proper provision for the supply of suitable food, everything was in dire disorder, and the poor fellows died of fever in enormous numbers.

But “the lady with the lamp” soon brought about a revolution; and the soldiers knew to their joy what it was to have proper nursing. No wonder the men kissed her shadow! Wherever the worst cases were to be found there was Florence Nightingale. Day and night she watched and waited, worked and prayed. Her very presence was medicine and food and light to the soldiers.

Gradually disorder disappeared, and deaths became fewer day by day. Good nursing; care and cleanliness; nourishing food, and perhaps beyond and above all love and tenderness, wrought wonders. The oath in the soldier’s mouth turned to a prayer at her appearance.

Though the beds extended over a space equal to four miles, yet each man knew that all that human strength could do to forward his recovery was being done.

Before her task was finished Miss Nightingale had taken the fever herself, but her life was mercifully spared.

Since those days, Florence Nightingale has done many kindly and noble deeds. She has always lived as much out of the public sight as possible, though her work has rendered her dear to all hearts.

Though she has had much ill health herself, she has been able to accomplish a splendid life’s work, and to advance the study of nursing in all parts of the globe.