A Story of Florence Nightingale’s Girlhood

News cutting from Derbyshire library service 8359 p8I col 1

A STORY OF FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE’S GIRLHOOD

As many of our readers know, Florence Nightingale, the heroine of the Crimea, spent her earlier years at Lea Hurst, a picturesquely situated mansion hard by the upland village of Holloway, which lies between Cromford and Crich. Though old-looking the house belongs to the present century but (as has been written of it) it is almost as classic as the birthplace of Shakespeare at Stratford on Avon. Florence Nightingale was born at Florence, but removed with her parents to their lovely Derbyshire residence when still a child, and did not leave it again till she decided to devote her life to the sick and suffering. Here is a story of her girlhood which will not be out of place in this column. Some boys had thrown stones at a valuable sheep-dog belonging to an old Scotch shepherd, and broken its leg, and it was decided that it would be a mercy to kill the poor animal, when Florence Nightingale came upon the scene. The little girl went fearlessly up to where he lay saying in a soft caressing tome, “Poor Cap! Poor Cap!” It was enough, he looked up with his speaking brown eyes, now bloodshot and full of pain, into her face, and did not resent it when, kneeling down beside him she stroked with her little ungloved hand the large intelligent head. To the vicar he was rather less amenable, but a dint of coaxing, at last allowed him to touch and examine the wounded leg. Florence persuasively telling him it was “All right”. Indeed she was on the floor beside him, with his head on her lap keeping up a continuous murmur much as a mother does ever a sick child. “Well” said the vicar, rising from his examination, “as far as I can tell there are no broken bones. The leg is badly bruised. It ought to be fomented to take the indimuation and swelling down.” “How do you foment?” asked Florence. “With hot cloths dipped in boiling water” answered the vicar. “Then that`s quite easy. I`II stay here and do it. Now, Jimmy, get sticks and make the kettle boil.” There was no hesitation in the child’s manner; she was told what ought to be done, and she set about doing it as a simple matter of course. “But they will be expecting you at home” said the vicar. “Not if you tell them I’m here” answered Florence, “and my sister and one of the maids can come and fetch me home in time for tea, and she hesitated, “they had better bring some old flannel and cloths; there does not seem to be much here, but you will wait and show me how to foment, won’t you?” “Well yes.” Said the vicar, carried away by the quick energy of the little girl. And soon the fire was lit and the water boiling. An old smock frock of the shepherd’s had been discovered in the corner, which Florence had deliberately torn into pieces, and to the vicar’s remark, “What will Roger say?” she answered, “We’ll give him another.” And so Florence Nightingale made her first compress, and spent the whole of that bright spring day in nursing her first patient – the shepherd’s dog. In the evening, when Roger came, not expecting to find visitors in the humble cottage, and dangling a bit or cord in his hand. Florence went up to him. “You can throw that away Roger.” She said; your dog won’t die; look at him!” And Cap rose and crawled towards his master whining with pleasure. “Deary me! dreary me! What have you done with him? He could not move this morning when I left him.” Then Florence told Roger, and explained the mode of treatment. “You have only to go on to-night and to-morrow he will be well the vicar says” An smiling brightly she continued: “Mrs Norton has promised to see to Cap to-morrow when you are out, so now you need not kill him; he will be able to do his work again” “Thank you kindly missy I do indeed,” said the old man huskily. “It went hard with me to do away with him; but what can a poor man do?” And putting out his hand he stroked the dog. “I`II see to him missy now I know what’s to be done,” and he stood his crook in the corner and hung his cap on the peg. Then Florence took her leave, stroking and petting the dog to the last and those who, standing in the kitchen door, watched her disappear, little thought they were gazing upon one whose mission would be to tend the sick and wounded on many a battlefield, and how, in years to come men dying far away from home would raise themselves upon their pillows to “kiss her shadow as it passed them.” – ED D.S.B.


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