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scraping lint, making bandages, knitting sockspreparing and collecting anything which
might be of use in the hospitals.
And truly, help was needed there. The cleanliness, the care, the organization had accomplished much; the death rate had been cut down from over sixty to one per cent. But a cholera scourge made matters worse again, filling the hospitals, and making days and nights horrible for the devoted nurses. Almost more terrible than the cholera scourge in its effects was the Russian winter. The soldiers at the “Front” had nothing but the thin linen suits in which they had set out in the summer; and the suffering from frost-bite was beyond description. Absolutely gruesome are the accounts of the state of the British soldiers, who were obliged to be in action during the day and to lie without shelter at night, frozen to their clothes and to their neighbors. A continual stream of patients suffering from cholera and from frost-bite was pouring into the hospital at Scutari, but while the nurses blenched and shuddered, they worked on day and night, themselves suffering privations innumerable, yet without complaint.
The hardest thing they had to endure was the pleas of the poor soldiers for warmer clothing, with which they could not be supplied. “Whenever a man opens his mouth with ‘Please ma'am, I want to speak to you,'” wrote one nurse, “my heart sinks, for I feel sure it will end in flannel shirts.” A re-enforcement of fifty nurses was sent to Miss Nightingale's aid, and it is not reported that any were turned away because there was nothing for them to do.
Throughout the winter of 1854-1855, Miss Nightingale remained at Scutari, but in May of 1855 she set sail for the Crimea for a visit of inspection to the hospitals there. Her arrival caused a stir—there were but four ladies in the Crimea, besides the Sisters of Mercy, who were not seen publicly. And when it was found out who she was, there were shoutings and ovations; and some of the soldiers, whom Miss Nightingale had nursed back to health at Scutari, wept with joy at seeing her again. She visited the General Hospital and the collection of hut hospitals on the height above Balaklava, and gave advice as to the management of them. But the delight of the soldiers at the sight of the “Soldiers' Friend” was soon changed to mourning, for Florence Nightingale contracted Crimean fever in its worst form. Very gently she was carried up to a hut hospital, and very tenderly she was cared for. Some time before a correspondent of The Times had written, “The popular instinct was not mistaken which, when she set out from England on the mission of mercy, hailed her as a heroine; I trust she may not earn her title to a higher though sadder appellation.” The right to this title of martyr, people feared she was about to earn; but gradually she grew better, and the joyous news spread rapidly to Scutari and to England. In her writings afterward she declared that she dated her recovery from the receipt of a little bunch of flowers which a friend sent to her; and she always advocated flowers in the sickroom, despite what many other nurses say about them. When she recovered, she was ordered home to England, but she refused to obey orders, returning to Scutari instead. She twice later visited the Crimea, to superintend the carrying out of hospital reforms which she herself had suggested.
On September 8, 1855, Sebastopol was taken; and only then, when the army was withdrawn from the Crimea, did Miss Nightingale consent to leave her post. Before setting out she had placed above Balaklava, at her own expense, a monument to the soldiers who had fallen in the war. This was in the form of a huge white marble cross, twenty feet high. She guessed, what was indeed the truth, that a reception was being prepared for her in England, and with her intense hatred of publicity she determined to avoid it. Under an assumed name, therefore, she journeyed quietly to England, and not until she was in Lea Hurst did the people know that she had reached England. The public was desirous of showing appreciation of her work, and Mr. Herbert was asked what form such a testimony of appreciation ought to take. Knowing Miss Nightingale well, he declared that nothing could please her like the founding of a hospital and nurses' training school. The work was undertaken with enthusiasm, and within a comparatively short time almost two hunderd and fifty thousand dollars was raised. Madame Goldschmidt (Jenny Lind) gave a concert of which the proceeds were almost ten thousand dollars, all of which was given to the fund.
Queen Victoria had all along felt the greatest interest in Miss Nightingale's work, and on the return home of the Lady-in-chief, the queen presented her with a beautiful and costly jewel. This was a shield upon which was a cross of red enamel, bearing in diamonds the letters V. R., and a crown, and surrounded by a black enamel band on which were the words “Blessed are the merciful.”
After her return to England, Miss Nightingale was practically an invalid and a recluse. She was not even able to undertake, as she would have so liked to do, the headship of the hospital which was founded and named for her. But, shut up in her room, she was by no means idle. She was constantly consulted by the War Department on all plans for securing better sanitary conditions in the army, and her room often looked like an annex of the War Department, with its plans and diagrams.
Then too, no new hospital was built in England until Miss Nightingale had passed her opinion on the plans, and committees from other countries consulted her on like subjects. During the Civil War in the United States, her advice on questions connected with nursing and hospital arrangements was of inestimable value, as it was some years later in the Franco-German War. She took, as was natural, the greatest interest when the Red Cross Society was proposed, and was active in securing its foundation.
In her writings, too, she gave to the world the benefits of her experience. Her “Notes on Hospitals” have been of immense service to those engaged in building hospitals, while her “Notes on Nursing" contain advice which is as valuable today as when it was first given. In a time when people feared to let out-of-door air into their bedrooms, she pleaded for open bed curtains and windows, and plenty of fresh air.
On the general subject of nursing, she gave her views distinctly. “It seems a commonly received idea among men,” she wrote, “and even among women themselves, that it requires nothing but a disappointment in love, the want of an object, a general disgust, or an incapacity for other things, to turn a woman into a good nurse. This reminds one of the parish where a stupid old man was set to be schoolmaster because he was ‘past keeping the pigs.'” She contended that nursing, “the finest of the fine arts,” demanded not only the best, but the best-trained women, and she has certainly done more than any other one person to bring to pass that in which she so firmly believed.
Some time after the close of the Crimean War, a banquet was given to all the officers, military and naval, who had taken part in that struggle, and while they were assembled it was suggested that each one write on a paper the name of the person that he thought would be longest remembered in connection with the war. When the papers were opened and read, every one had on it the name of Florence Nightingale. And this prophecy has proved correct; for while comparatively few people could recall the name of any of the military leaders, almost any one, on hearing the words “Crimean War,” thinks, half unconsciously, of Florence Nightingale.