The Life of Florence Nightingale Volume I Part 26

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[210] See the letters printed in _Hall_, p. 457.

[211] _Notes_, p. 158.

[212] It has often been stated that the cross was erected by Miss Nightingale, but this is not the case. The inscription was suggested by Mrs. Shaw Stewart. In 1863 a Maternity Charity was established at Constantinople "in honour of Florence Nightingale."

Miss Nightingale was much exhausted by her labours in the Crimea, and, a few weeks before she left it for the last time, she wrote some testamentary dispositions which, in the event of her death, were to be handed to General Storks, in command at Scutari: "As you," she wrote to him (Balaclava, May 3, 1856), "are of all those in office, whether at home or abroad, the officer who has given the most steady and consistent support to the work entrusted to me by Her Majesty's Government, I venture to appeal to you to continue that support after my death, and to carry out as far as possible my last requests." She expressed an "earnest desire" that Mrs. Shaw Stewart should be appointed to succeed her. She left messages of commendation and pecuniary gifts to the Reverend Mother of the Bermondsey Nuns, Sister Bertha Turnbull, and Mrs.

Roberts: "To the Queen I beg humbly to restore the 'Order' with which Her Majesty was pleased to decorate me. If she sees fit to return it to my family, it will be prized the more by them. I cannot express the support which the approbation of my Sovereign has been to me in all my trials. But I would a.s.sure Her that neither by word or thought or deed have I ever for one moment been unworthy of Her service or of the charge entrusted to me by Her. I would wish the Commander of the Forces in the East, in restoring to Her this jewel, to a.s.sure Her of this."

There were other requests, but her last thought was of the Army: "I would wish that I could have done something more to prove to the n.o.ble Army, whom I have so cared for, my respect and esteem. If the Commander of the Forces would put into General Orders a message of farewell from me, of remembrance of the time when we lived and suffered and worked together, I should be grateful to him." She was to be spared to render services to the British Army greater than any she had been able to render in the Crimea.

IV

At Scutari, during the last months of Miss Nightingale's sojourn (Nov.

1855--March 1856, and July 1856), her work was as continuous as in the Crimea. Her companions, Mr. and Mrs. Bracebridge, had returned to England in August 1855, and their place was taken by Mrs. Samuel Smith.

From her letters we get a glimpse of Florence's daily toil at Scutari.

"Mine," wrote the aunt (Dec. 31, 1855), "is mere copying; hers is perplexing brain-work. I go to bed at 11; she habitually writes till 1 or 2, sometimes till 3 or 4; has in the last pressure given up 3 whole nights to it. 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 (Jan. 7). 'Oh, do go to bed,' I said. 'How can I; I have all those letters to write,' pointing to the divan covered with papers. 'Write them to-morrow.' 'To-morrow will bring its own work.' And she sat up the greater part of the night." But with all this pressure, there was no flurry. "Such questions as food, rest, temperature," wrote her aunt in another letter (Jan. 25, 1856), "never interfere with her during her work; I suppose she has gained some advantage over other people in her entire absence of thought about these things; that is, her mind overtasked with great things has not these little questions to entertain. She is extremely quick and clear too, as you know, in her work. This I suppose has increased upon her, and she can turn from one thing or one person to another, when in the midst of business, in a most extraordinary manner. 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, but no irritation of temper, no hurry or confusion of manner, ever appears for a moment." Mrs. Smith's work was not only copying. Mrs. Bracebridge had called herself "Boots," because she did all Florence's odd jobs, and to this part Mrs. Smith had succeeded. "Aunt Mai," who had helped so greatly in Florence's struggle for independence, must have felt rewarded for her self-sacrifice in leaving husband, home, and children, by being able to stand at her niece's side through some part of the life of action.

For Christmas Day (1855) Miss Nightingale accepted an invitation to the British Emba.s.sy, and another guest has drawn a picture of her on this occasion:--

By the side of the Amba.s.sadress was a tall, fas.h.i.+onable, haughty beauty. But the next instant my eye wandered to a lady modestly standing on the other side of Lady Stratford. At first I thought she was a nun, from her black dress and close cap. She was not introduced, and yet Edmund and I looked at each other at the same moment to whisper _Miss Nightingale_. Yes, it was Florence Nightingale, greatest of all now in name and honour among women. I a.s.sure you that I was glad not to be obliged to speak just then, for I felt quite dumb as I looked at her wasted figure and the short brown hair combed over her forehead like a child's, cut so when her life was despaired of from a fever but a short time ago.

Her dress, as I have said, was black, made high to the throat, its only ornament being a large enamelled brooch, which looked to me like the colours of a regiment surmounted with a wreath of laurel, no doubt some graceful offering from our men. To hide the close white cap a little, she had tied a white c.r.a.pe handkerchief over the back of it, only allowing the border of lace to be seen; and this gave the nun-like appearance which first struck me on her entering the room; otherwise Miss Nightingale is by no means striking in appearance. Only her plain black dress, quiet manner and great renown told so powerfully altogether in that a.s.sembly of brilliant dress and uniforms. She is very 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 dark 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 could not join in the games, but she sat on a sofa, and looked on, laughing until the tears came into her eyes.[213]

[213] Letter from Lady Hornby to her sister Mrs. Vaillant, Jan. 5, 1856; _Hornby_, pp. 150, 152. The enamelled brooch was the Queen's jewel.

It was during this latter portion of Miss Nightingale's sojourn at Scutari that she made a new friends.h.i.+p, which was of some importance to her work. In October 1855 Colonel Lefroy,[214] confidential adviser on scientific matters to the Secretary for War, was sent out by Lord Panmure to report privately on the state of the hospitals. He formed a high opinion of Miss Nightingale's work and abilities, and a friends.h.i.+p with her then began which continued to the end of his life. Lord Panmure's confidence in her, and the full authority with which, as already related (p. 292), he invested her, were partly due to Colonel Lefroy's reports.[215] At the time when the matter was under discussion, he had returned to his post at the War Office, and the papers were sent to him. His view of the case was the same as Miss Nightingale's, and he expressed it with a force inspired by his personal observation, alike of her services and of her difficulties. The medical men, he wrote in one minute, are jealous of her mission. "Dr. Hall would gladly upset it to-morrow." "A General Order," he wrote in another minute, "recognizing and defining her position would save her much annoyance and hara.s.sing correspondence. It is due, I think, to all she has done and has sacrificed. Among other reasons for it, it will put a stop to any spirit of growing independence among these ladies and nurses who are still under her, a spirit encouraged with no friendly intention in more than one quarter." For many years Colonel Lefroy was one of Miss Nightingale's most constant correspondents on subjects connected with military hospitals and nurses, and they often co-operated in schemes for the welfare of the soldiers. Colonel Lefroy's services to the army, both in scientific matters and in philanthropic directions, were long and distinguished. Miss Nightingale had detractors and opponents in the service; but the more progressive an officer was, the more probably may he be included among her admirers and supporters.

[214] John Henry Lefroy (1817-90), Lieut. R.A., 1837; engaged in a magnetical survey, 1839-42; F.R.S., 1848; at the War Office, 1854-57; inspector-general of army schools, 1857; afterwards governor successively of the Bermudas and Tasmania; K.C.M.G., 1877.

[215] See a letter of Sidney Herbert printed in _Stanmore_, vol. i.

p. 417.

CHAPTER XIII

END OF THE WAR--RETURN HOME

(July-August 1856)

I love the people, But do not like to stage me to their eyes.

Though it do well, I do not relish well Their loud applause and _aves_ vehement.

SHAKESPEARE.

Peace was signed at Paris on March 30, 1856; but there was still work to be done in the Crimean hospitals, and Miss Nightingale remained at Balaclava, as we have seen, till the beginning of July. On her return to Scutari she was occupied in winding up the affairs of her mission.

Meanwhile the nurses were already beginning to go home. The Reverend Mother (Moore), who had come out from Bermondsey with the first party, left the East at the end of April. She had been throughout one of the mainstays of Miss Nightingale, who wrote to her thus from Balaclava (April 29): "G.o.d's blessing and my love and grat.i.tude with you, as you well know. You know well too that I shall do everything I can for the Sisters whom you have left me. But it will not be like you. Your wishes will be our law. And I shall try and remain in the Crimea for their sakes as long as we are any of us there. I do not presume to express praise or grat.i.tude to you, Revd. Mother, because it would look as if I thought you had done the work not unto G.o.d but unto me. You were far above me in fitness for the General Superintendency, both in worldly talent of administration, and far more in the spiritual qualifications which G.o.d values in a Superior. My being placed over you in an unenviable reign in the East was my misfortune and not my fault."

Another of those whom Miss Nightingale described as her mainstays was Mrs. Shaw Stewart, who served in the Crimea as Superintendent of the nurses, successively in the "General" and in the "Castle" Hospital, and of her Miss Nightingale wrote in terms of similarly grateful fervour. I quote a few of these appreciations (and many more might be added), because it has been supposed, on the strength of isolated expressions penned in moments of vexation or despondency, that Miss Nightingale was ungenerous in recognition of the work of others.[216] Nothing could be further from the fact. She was, it is true, unsparing in blame wherever she saw, or thought she saw, incompetence, or unfaithfulness, or a lack of single-mindedness; she was also impatient of opposition; and hers was not one of those soft natures which readily forget and forgive. But wherever efficiency and faithful zeal were to be found, she was quick to recognize them, and she was as unstinted in praise as in blame. Of Mrs.

Shaw Stewart, she wrote to Lady Cranworth (who had succeeded Lady Canning in good offices towards the nurses): "Without her our Crimean work would have come to grief--without her judgment, her devotion, her unselfish, consistent looking to the one great end, viz. the carrying out the work as a whole--without her untiring zeal, her watchful care of the nurses, her accuracy in all trusts and accounts, her truth, her faithfulness. Her praise and her reward are in higher hands than mine."

Of the same "n.o.ble, brave" lady, Miss Nightingale had written to Mrs.

Bracebridge (Nov. 4, 1855): "Faithfulness is so eminently _her_, that I hear her Master saying, Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things." I could multiply Miss Nightingale's praises of her fellow-workers, for of every one of them she sent home to Lady Cranworth a terse character-sketch. This was done mainly for the sake of the professional nurses, in order that they might be helped to find suitable situations on their return. The sketches show how close a touch the Lady-in-Chief kept upon her staff, and they reveal no reluctance either to criticize or to praise. It would be invidious to particularize further than to cite Miss Nightingale's appreciation of her third mainstay, Mrs. Roberts, who came out as a paid nurse with her in October 1854, and served throughout the war: "Having been 23 years Sister in St. Thomas's Hospital, her qualifications as a _nurse_ were, of course, infinitely superior to any other of those with me. She is indeed a surgical nurse of the first order. Her valuable services have been recognized even and most of all by the surgeons (of Scutari, where she has princ.i.p.ally been and where, after Inkerman, her exertions were unremitting). Her total superiority to all the vices of a Hospital Nurse, her faithfulness to the work, her disinterested love of duty and vigilant care of her patients, her power of work equal to that of _ten_, have made her one of the most important persons of the expedition."

[216] _Stanmore_, vol. i. pp. 404-5.

II

On June 3 the Secretary of State wrote to Miss Nightingale, "as the period is now fast approaching when your generous and disinterested labours will cease, with the occasion which called them forth," to inquire what arrangements should be made for her return. "In thus contemplating," he continued, "the close of those anxious and trying duties, which you imposed upon yourself solely with a view to alleviate the sufferings of Her Majesty's Army in the East, and which you have accomplished with a singleness of purpose beyond all praise, it is not necessary for me to inform you how highly Her Majesty appreciates the services you have rendered to Her Army; as Her Majesty has already conveyed to you a signal proof of Her gracious approbation. But I desire now, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, to offer you our most cordial thanks for your humane and generous exertions. In doing so, I feel confident that I simply express the unanimous feelings of the people of this country."

There were things which Miss Nightingale valued more highly than the approbation of the people. One of them was correctly surmised by Sir Henry Storks. Writing to her from Headquarters at Scutari, on July 25, he said:--

I have received your kind note with mingled feelings of extreme pleasure and regret--the former, because I appreciate your good opinion very highly; the latter, because your note is a Farewell.

It will ever be to me a source of pride and gratification to have been a.s.sociated with you in the work which you have performed with so much devotion and with so much courage. Amidst the acknowledgments you have received from all cla.s.ses, and from many quarters, I feel persuaded there are none more pleasing to yourself than the grateful recognition of the poor men you came to succour and to save. You will ever live in their remembrance, be a.s.sured of that; for amongst the faults and vices, which ignorance has produced, and a bad system has fostered and matured, ingrat.i.tude is not one of the defects of the British soldier. I indulge the hope that you will permit me hereafter to continue an acquaintance (may I say friends.h.i.+p?) which I highly value and appreciate.

The grat.i.tude of the British soldier was very dear to Miss Nightingale, and the disposition which she ultimately made of her Crimean decorations was characteristic. Before she left the East, the Sultan had presented her with a diamond bracelet and a sum of money for the nurses and hospitals, both of which presents the Queen permitted her to accept.[217] The bracelet, with the badge given by the Queen, may be seen to-day in the Museum of the United Service Inst.i.tution, placed there in accordance with her desire that they should be deposited "where the soldiers could see them."

[217] _Panmure_, vol. i. p. 278.

At length it was time for Miss Nightingale, having seen off the last of her nurses, and filed the last of her inventories and accounts, to leave also. The Government had offered her a British man-of-war for the voyage home. The view she was likely to take of such a proposal had been correctly surmised in the House of Lords some weeks before. On May 5 Lord Ellesmere moved the Address on the conclusion of peace. He was something of a poet, as well as a statesman, and this was his last appearance in the House. In a speech, which was much admired at the time, and which may still be read with pleasure as a specimen of the more ornate kind of parliamentary eloquence, he paid a tribute to the memory of Lord Raglan, and then pa.s.sed by a happy transition to the heroine of the war: "My Lords, the agony of that time has become matter of history. The vegetation of two successive springs has obscured the vestiges of Balaclava and Inkerman. Strong voices now answer to the roll-call, and st.u.r.dy forms now cl.u.s.ter round the colours. The ranks are full, the hospitals are empty. The angel of mercy still lingers to the last on the scene of her labours; but her mission is all but accomplished. Those long arcades of Scutari in which dying men sat up to catch the sound of her footstep or the flutter of her dress, and fell back content to have seen her shadow as it pa.s.sed, are now comparatively deserted. She may probably be thinking how to escape, as best she may on her return, the demonstrations of a nation's appreciation of the deeds and motives of Florence Nightingale."

III

The offer of the man-of-war was declined; and Miss Nightingale, with her aunt, sailed in the _Danube_ for Athens, Messina, and Ma.r.s.eilles. A Queen's messenger was in attendance to help the travellers with pa.s.sports. They stayed a night in a humble hotel in Paris (August 4), and travelling thence, as Miss Smith, she reached London next day. The "return of Florence Nightingale is on every one's lips," said a letter of the time, and all the newspaper-world was alert to discover her movements. "Weary and worn as she is," wrote her aunt, "I cannot tell you the dread she has of the receptions with which she is threatened."

It became known that on her arrival in England she would proceed at once to her country-home. Triumphal arches, addresses from mayors and corporations, and a carriage drawn by her neighbours were at once suggested; but Miss Nightingale had prudently withheld information of her time-table even from her family, and the public reception was avoided. It had been proposed, too, that the reception should be military. "The whole regiments" of the Coldstreams, the Grenadiers, and the Fusiliers "would like to come, but as that was impossible, they desired to send down their three Bands to meet her at the station and play her home, whenever she might arrive, whether by day or by night, if only they could find out when." But the attention even of her soldiers was eluded. She lay lost for a night in London, and at eight o'clock next morning she presented herself, according to a promise given to the Bermondsey Nuns, at their Convent door. It was the first day of their annual Retreat, and she rested with them for a few hours. Then, taking the train, she reached her home on August 7, 1856, after nearly two years' absence in the East, arriving at an unexpected hour, having walked up from the little country station. "A little tinkle of the small church bell on the hills, and a thanksgiving prayer at the little chapel next day, were," wrote her sister, "all the innocent greeting."

Florence's spoils of war, as Lady Verney wrote to Mrs. Gaskell, arrived in advance, and were characteristic. There was, first, William, a one-legged sailor boy, who was ten months in her hospitals. Occupation was found for him. Next there was Peter,[218] a little Russian prisoner who came into hospital, and of whom, as he was an orphan, she took charge. "One of the Lady Nurses was his theological instructor, and asked him where he would go when he died if he were a good boy? He answered, 'To Miss Nightingale.' Thirdly, there was a big Crimean puppy, given her by the soldiers. He was found in a hole in the rocks near Balaclava, and was called 'Rousch,' which is supposed to be 'soldier' in Russian. A little Russian cat, a similar gift, died on the road; but the three remaining are the happiest things I have seen for some time, careering about in the intervals of school, where they are made much of, and 'glory' is more agreeable to them than to their mistress!" But Florence had another Crimean spoil, unknown, perhaps, to her sister, which she accounted one of the most sacred of her possessions. It was a bunch of gra.s.s which she had "picked out of the ground watered by our men's blood at Inkerman."

[218] Peter Grillage afterwards became man-servant at Embley. See Vol. II. p. 302.

IV

"If ever I live to see England again," she had written in November 1855, "the western breezes of my hill-top home will be my first longing, though Olympus with its snowy cap looks fair over our blue Eastern sea." It was to Lea Hurst, then, that she went on her return. It was there, ten years before, that she had found a fortnight's happiness in the humble work of parish nursing and visiting, and had thought to herself that with a continuation of such life she would be content.[219]

The aspirations of her youth were to receive, as this second Part of the volume has shown, a larger, a fuller, and a more conspicuous attainment.

Yet it would be a mistake to regard Miss Nightingale's mission in the Crimean War either as the summit of her attainment or the fulfilment of her life. Rather was it a starting-point.

[219] Above, pp. 53, 64.

Her work in the East did, it is true, attain some great ends, and satisfy in some measure the aspiration of her mind and heart. "She has done a great deed," wrote a friend in December 1854, "not less than that of those who stood at Inkerman or advanced at the Alma; and she has made the first move towards wiping away a reproach from this country--that our women could not do what others do, irreproachably, and with advantage to their fellow-creatures." She had proved that there was room for nurses in British military hospitals. She had shown the way to a new and high calling for women. "What Florence has done," wrote Lady Verney to a friend (April 1856), "towards raising the standard of women's capabilities and work is most important. It is quite curious every day how questions arise regarding them which are answered quite differently, even when she is not alluded to, from what they would have been 18 months ago." Lord Stanley, in the speech at Manchester already mentioned, had made the same point. "Mark," he said, "what, by breaking through customs and prejudices, Miss Nightingale has effected for her s.e.x. She has opened to them a new profession, a new sphere of usefulness. I do not suppose that, in undertaking her mission, she thought much of the effect which it might have on the social position of women. Yet probably no one of those who made that question a special study has done half as much as she towards its settlement. A claim for more extended freedom of action, based on proved public usefulness in the highest sense of the word, with the whole nation to look on and bear witness, is one which must be listened to, and cannot be easily refused." Lord Stanley was mistaken in supposing that Miss Nightingale thought little of the effect of her mission upon the position of women; for, though she had misgivings about "woman's missionaries," yet to make "a better life for woman"[220] was an object very near her heart. When she was in the Crimea, working as hard as any of the men, confronting disease and death with the bravest of them, administering, reforming, counselling as energetically as the best of them, this resolute woman felt that she and her companions had raised their s.e.x to the height of a great occasion. "War," she wrote to her friend, Mr. Bracebridge (Nov. 4, 1855), "makes Deborahs and Absaloms and Achitophels; and when, if ever the Magnificat has been true, has it been more true than now, every word of it? My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in G.o.d my Saviour. For He hath regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden." The words, which had often been in her mouth in moments of despondency and thwarted yearning,[221] came to her with the sense of happy fulfilment when she had been able to act as the handmaiden of G.o.d in the service of the sick and wounded soldiers. Her sister, understanding her better in the years of attainment than in those of aspiration, wrote to her (Nov.

15, 1855): "What anxious work you have upon you, my Greatheart, and yet in spite of it all have you not found your true home--the home of your spirit?"

[220] See below, p. 385, and above, p. 102.

[221] Above, p. 94.

All this was true. Yet Miss Nightingale's Crimean mission was, in the scheme of her life as she had planned it, and in the facts of her life so far as failing health permitted, not so much a climax, as an episode.

It was an episode remarkable in itself, and it had given her a world-wide reputation; but in reputation she saw nothing except an opportunity for further work. "The abilities which she has displayed,"

The Life of Florence Nightingale Volume I Part 26

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