THE RED BOOK OF HEROES
BY MRS. LANG
EDITED BY ANDREW LANG
WITH 8 COLOURED PLATES AND NUMEROUS ILLUSTRATIONS BY A. WALLIS MILLS
LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO. 39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON NEW YORK, BOMBAY, AND CALCUTTA
All rights reserved
'Life is not all beer and skittles,' said a reflective sportsman, and all books are not fairy tales. In an imperfect state of existence, 'the peety of it is that we cannot have all things as we would like them.' Undeniably we would like all books to be fairy tales or novels, and at present most of them are. But there is another side to things, and we must face it. '"Life is real, life is earnest," as Tennyson tells us,' said an orator to whom I listened lately, and though Longfellow, not Tennyson, wrote the famous line quoted by the earnest speaker, yet there is a good deal of truth in it. The word 'earnest,' like many other good words, has been overdone. It is common to sneer at 'earnest workers,' yet where would we be without them, especially in our climate?
In a Polynesian island, where the skies for ever smile, and the blacks for ever dance, earnestness is superfluous. The bread-fruit tree delivers its rolls punctually every morning, strawberries or other fruits, as nice, spring beneath the feet of the dancers; the cavern in the forest provides a roof and shelter from the sun; the sea supplies a swimming-bath, and man, in time of peace, has only to enjoy himself, eat and drink, laugh and love, sing songs and tell fairy tales. His drapery is woven of fragrant flowers, nobody is poor and anxious about food, nobody is rich and afraid of losing his money, nobody needs to think of helping others; he has only to put forth his hand, or draw his bow or swing his fishing-rod, and help himself. To be sure, in time of war, man has just got to be earnest, and think out plans for catching and spearing his enemies, and drill his troops and improve his weapons, in fact to do some work, or have his throat cut, and be put in the oven and eaten. Thus it is really hard for the most fortunate people to avoid being earnest now and then.
The people whose stories are told in this book were very different from each other in many ways. The child abbess, Mere Angelique, ruling her convent, and at war with naughty abbesses who hated being earnest, does not at once remind us of Hannibal. The great Montrose, with his poems and his scented love-locks, his devotion to his cause, his chivalry, his death, to which he went gaily clad like a bridegroom to meet his bride, does not seem a companion for Palissy the Potter, all black and shrunk and wrinkled, and bowed over his furnaces. It is a long way from gentle Miss Nightingale, tending wounded dogs when a child, and wounded soldiers when a woman, to Charles Gordon playing wild tricks at school, leading a Chinese army, watching alone at Khartoum, in a circle of cruel foes, for the sight of the British colours, and the sounds of the bagpipes that never met his eyes and ears.
But these people, and all the others whose stories are told, had this in common, that they were in earnest, though we may be sure that they did not go about with talk of earnestness for ever in their mouths. It came natural to them, they could not help it, they liked it, their hearts were set on two things: to do their very best, and to keep their honour. The Constant Prince suffered hunger and cold and long imprisonment all 'to keep the bird in his bosom,' as the old Cavalier said, to be true to honour. 'I will carry with me honour and fidelity to the grave,' said Montrose; and he kept his word, though his enemies gave him no grave, but placed his head and limbs on spikes in various towns of his country. But now his grave, in St. Giles's Church in Edinburgh, is the most beautiful and honourable in Scotland, adorned with his stainless scutcheon, and with those of Napiers and Grahams, his kindred and his friends.
"The grave of March, the grave of Gwythar, The grave of Gugann Gleddyvrudd, A mystery to the world, the grave of Arthur,"
says the old Welsh poem, and unknown as the grave of Arthur is the grave of Gordon. The desert wind may mingle his dust with the sand, the Nile may sweep it to the sea, as the Seine bore the ashes of that martyr of honour, the Maid of France. 'The whole earth is brave men's common sepulchre,' says the Greek, their tombs may be without mark or monument, but 'honour comes a pilgrim grey' to the sacred places where men cannot go in pilgrimage.
We see what honour they had of men; the head of Sir Thomas More, the head of Montrose, were exposed to mockery in public places, the ashes of Jeanne d'Arc were thrown into the river, Gordon's body lies unknown; but their honour is eternal in human memory. It was really for honour that Sir Thomas More suffered; it was not possible for him to live without the knowledge that his shield was stainless. It was for honour rather than for religion that the child Angelique Arnauld gave up amusement and pleasure, and everything that is dear to a girl, young, witty, beautiful, and gay, and put on the dress of a nun. Later she worked for the sake of duty and religion, but honour was her first mistress, and she could not go back from her plighted word.
These people were born to be what they were, to be examples to all of us that are less nobly born and like a quiet, easy, merry life. We cannot all be Gordons, Montroses, Angeliques, but if we read about them and think about them, a touch of their nobility may come to us, and surely our honour is in our own keeping. We may try never to do a mean thing, or a doubtful thing, a thing that Gordon would not have been tempted to do, though we are tempted, more tempted as we grow older and see what the world does than are the young. I think honour is the dearest and the most natural of virtues; in their own ways none are more loyal than boys and girls. Later we may forget that no pleasure, no happiness, not even the love that seems the strongest force in our natures, is worth having at the expense of a stain on the white rose of honour. Had she been a few years older, Angelique might have failed to keep the word which was extorted from her as a child, but, being young, she kept it the more easily. What we have to do is to try to be young always in this matter, to be our natural selves and unspotted from the world. Certainly some people are a little better, and so far a little happier, because they have seen the light from Charles Gordon's yet living head, and been half heart-broken by his end, so glorious to himself, so inglorious to his fellow countrymen. For his dear sake we may all do a little, sacrifice a little, to help the Homes for Boys which have been built to his memory, and to help the poor boys whom he used to help, making himself poor, and giving his time for them.
We read in the book, 'A Child's Hero,' how the brave Havelock won the heart of a little child who never saw him. She heard the words 'Havelock is dead,' and laid her head against the wall and burst into tears. Other children may feel the same devotion for these splendid people, for Hannibal, so far away from us, giving his whole heart and whole genius and his life for his wretched country, for men who would not understand, who would not aid him:
"Their old art statesmen plied, And paltered, and evaded, and denied"
till their country was vanquished. Bad as that country was, for Hannibal's own sake we are all on the side of Hannibal, as we are on the side of Hector of Troy. 'Well know I this in heart and soul,' said Hector to his wife, when she would have kept him out of the battle, 'that the day is coming when holy Ilios shall perish, and Priam, and the people of Priam of the ashen spear, my father with my mother, and my brothers, many and brave, dying in the dust at the hands of our foemen; but most I sorrow for thee, my wife, when they lead thee weeping away, a slave to weave at thy master's loom and bear water from thy master's well, and the passers-by, as they see thee weeping, shall say, "This was the wife of Hector, the foremost in fight of the men of Troy, when they fought for their city." But may I be dead, and the earth be mounded above me, ere I hear thy cry and the tale of thy captivity.'
So he went back into the battle, and never again saw his wife and child. It was in the spirit of Hector that Hannibal planned and fought and toiled, till as an old man he bit on the poison ring, and died, and was free from the Roman captivity that threatened him.
Honour and courage were the masters of the men and women whose stories are told in this book, but of them all none dared a risk so horrible as brave Father Damien in the Isle of Lepers. For his adventure among dreadful people who must give him their own dreadful disease, a Montrose or a Havelock might have had little heart, for his task had none of the excitement and glitter of the soldier's duty in war. But they are all, these men and women, good to live with, good to know, good to go with, weary camp followers as we are of the Noble Army of Martyrs, and unworthy of a single leaf from the laurel crown.
The Lady-in-Chief 1
Prisoners and Captives 25
The Apostle of the Lepers 95
The Constant Prince 109
The Marquis of Montrose 135
A Child's Hero 169
Conscience or King 222
The Little Abbess 246
The Crime of Theodosius 334
Palissy the Potter 352
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
(Engraved and Printed by Andre & Sleigh, Ltd., Bushey.)
'Go back!' he said [See page 350] Frontispiece
to face p. Fifteen thousand Romans fell that day 74
Father Damien went out and sat in a lonely place by the sea 106
A great army of Irishmen have swooped down on the Atholl country 150
The place was swarming with rats 208
She took all her nuns for a solemn walk 258
They saw a man in uniform shining with gold flying towards them 316
A jar of water in the figure's right hand emptied itself on his head 364
to face p. Roger could hardly believe his eyes 6
She came forth with a golden circlet round her head 44
Hannibal was determined not to stir until the elephants were safely over 58
Under the eyes of the army the combat began 68
In vain Guedelha implored him to wait till the fatal hour was past 114
About thirty or forty of our honestest women did fall a railing on Mr. William Annan 140
'You will soon have no caste left yourself' 194
Often ... he had felt that a terrible death was very near 218
Sir Thomas sat silent 232
'What now, Mother Eve?' he answered 240
'You are mistaking me for somebody else' 248
The archers set a ladder against the wall, which the lady instantly threw down 274
Gordon found time to attend to an old dying woman 310
A shot ended his life 330
'Do not delay an instant,' he cried, 'or it will be too late' 338
'Let him die!' he said 344
The bright-eyed lizards he especially loved 354
ILLUSTRATIONS IN TEXT
PAGE 'Tell me what you want to say, and I will say it' 17
They sprang on the food like wolves 28
He brushed down the walls without hindrance from anyone 41
All three were apt pupils 51
The Gauls poured out of their camp shouting and screaming with delight 56
He found right in front of him a huge precipice 64
The whole four thousand climbed the ridge 77
'Let me release the Romans from their anxiety,' he said 93
He found the Prince lying unconscious on the ground 130
For two days they sought in vain for a road to take them to Caithness 162
He managed to crawl over the floor 179
The Captain obligingly did as he was asked 183
Suddenly the table began to rock 189
In another moment he would have been trampled under the feet of the Afghan cavalry 191
Not one of their movements passed unnoticed by her 201
A tired horseman rode into camp 204
The young Aide-de-camp did not waste time in arguing 213
Erasmus was astonished to notice More present Prince Henry with a roll 228
'Go away! you have no business here.' 253
She fell fainting to the ground 266
He told them stories from English history 303
He cleaned his gun while the men stood by and stared 314
Fancy poor Madame Palissy's feelings 359
Everybody nowadays is so used to seeing in the streets nurses wearing long floating cloaks of different colours, blue, brown, grey, and the rest, and to having them with us when we are ill, that it is difficult to imagine a time when there were no such people. In the stories that were written even fifty years ago you will soon find out what sort of women they were who called themselves 'nurses.' Any kind of person seems to have been thought good enough to look after a sick man; it was not a matter which needed a special talent or teaching, and no girl would have dreamed of nursing anybody outside her own home, still less of giving up her life to looking after the sick. It was merely work, it was thought, for old women, and so, at the moment when the patient needed most urgently some one young and strong and active about him, who could lift him from one side of the bed to the other, or keep awake all night to give him his medicine or to see that his fire did not go out, he was left to a fat, sleepy, often drunken old body, who never cared if he lived or died, so that she was not disturbed.
* * * * *
The woman who was to change all this was born in Florence in the year 1820 and called after that city. Her father, Mr. Nightingale, seems to have been fond of giving his family place-names, for Florence's sister, about a year older than herself, had the old title of Naples tacked on to 'Frances,' and in after life was always spoken of as 'Parthy' or 'Parthenope.' By and by a young cousin of these little girls would be named 'Athena,' after the town Athens, and then the fashion grew, and I have heard of twins called 'Inkerman' and 'Balaclava,' and of an 'Elsinora,' while we all know several 'Almas,' and may even have met a lady who bears the name of the highest mountain in the world—of course you can all guess what that is?
* * * * *
Mr. and Mrs. Nightingale did not stay very long in Italy after Florence's birth. They grew tired of living abroad, and wanted to get back to their old home among the hills and streams of Derbyshire. Here, at Lea hall, Florence's father could pass whole days happily with his books and the beautiful things he had collected in his travels; but he looked well after the people in the village, and insisted that the children should be sent to a little school, where they learned how to read and write and count for twopence a week. If the poor villagers were ill or unhappy, his wife used to visit them, and help them with advice as well as with money, and we may be quite sure that her little daughters often went with her on her rounds.
So the early years of Florence's childhood passed away amidst the flowery fields and bare hills that overlooked the beautiful river Derwent. The village, built of stone like so many in the North Country, lay far below, and on Sundays the two little girls, dressed in their best tippets and bonnets, used to walk with their father and mother across the meadows to the tiny church at Dethick. Here nearly two hundred and fifty years ago one Anthony Babington knelt in prayer, though his thoughts often wandered to the beautiful Scottish queen, shut up by order of Elizabeth in Wingfield manor, only a few miles away. Of course Parthy and Florence knew all about him, and their greatest treat was a visit to his house, where they could see in the kitchen a trap-door leading to a large secret chamber, in which a conspirator might live for weeks without being found out. A great deal of the house had been pulled down or allowed to fall into decay, but the bailiff, who lived in the rest, was always glad to see them, and would take them to all kinds of delightful places, and up little dark narrow winding stairs, at the end of which you pushed up another trap-door and found yourself in your bedroom. What a fascinating way of getting there, and how very, very silly people are now to have wide staircases and straight passages and stupid doors, which you know will open, instead of never being sure if the trap-door had not stuck, or some enemy had not placed a heavy piece of furniture upon it!
* * * * *
But much as the Nightingales, big and little, loved Lea hall, it was very bare and cold in winter, and Florence's father determined to build a new house in a more sheltered place. Lea Hurst, as it was called, was only a mile from the hall, and, like it, overlooked the Derwent; but here the hills were wooded and kept out the bitter winds which had howled and wailed through the old house. Mr. Nightingale was very careful that all should be done exactly as he wished, therefore it took some time to finish, and then the family could not move in till the paint and plaster were dry, so that Florence was between five and six when at last they took possession.
No doubt the two little girls had much to say about the laying out of the terraced gardens, and insisted on having some beds of their own, to plant with their favourite flowers. They were greatly pleased, too, at discovering a very old chapel in the middle of the new house, and very likely they told each other many stories of what went on there. Then there was a summer-house, where they could have tea, and if you went through the woods in May, and could make up your mind to pass the sheets of blue hyacinths without stopping to pick them till you were too tired to go further, you came out upon a splendid avenue, with a view of the hills for miles round. This was the walk which Florence loved best.
* * * * *
It seems, however, that Mr. Nightingale could not have thought Lea Hurst as pleasant as he expected it to be, for a few months later he bought a place called Embley, near the beautiful abbey of Romsey, in Hampshire. Here they all moved every autumn as soon as the trees at Lea Hurst grew bare; and when the young leaves were showing like a green mist, they began the long drive back again, sometimes stopping in London on the way, to see some pictures and hear some music, and have some talk with many interesting people whom Mr. Nightingale knew. And when they got home at last, how delightful it was to ride round to the old friends in the farms and cottages, and listen to tales of all that had happened during the little girls' absence, and in their turn to tell of the wonderful sights they had witnessed, and the adventures that had befallen them! Best of all were the visits to the families of puppies and kittens which had been born during their absence, for Florence especially loved animals, and was often sent for by the neighbours to cure them when they were ill. The older and uglier they were, the sorrier Florence was for them, and she would often steal out with sugar or apples or carrots in her pocket for some elderly beast which was ending its days quietly in the fields, stopping in the woods on the way to play with a squirrel or a baby rabbit. The game was perhaps a little one-sided, but what did that matter? As the poet Cowper says,
Wild, timid hares were drawn from woods To share her home caresses, And looked up to her human eyes With sylvan tendernesses.
Beasts and birds were Florence's dear friends, but dearest of all were her ponies.
While she was at Embley, the vicar, who was very fond of her, used often to take her out riding when he went on his rounds to see his people. Florence enjoyed this very much; she knew them all well, and never forgot the names of the children or their birthdays. Her mother would often give her something nice to carry to the sick ones, and when the flowers came out, Florence used to gather some for her special favourites, out of her own garden.
* * * * *
One day when she and the vicar were cantering across the downs, they saw an old shepherd, who was a great friend of both of them, attempting to drive his flock without the help of his collie, Cap, who was nowhere to be seen.
'What has become of Cap?' they asked, and the shepherd told them that some cruel boys had broken the dog's leg with a stone, and he was in such pain that his master thought it would be more merciful to put an end to him.
Florence was hot with indignation. 'Perhaps I can help him,' she said. 'At any rate, he will like me to sit with him; he must feel so lonely. Where is he?'
'In my hut out there,' answered the shepherd; 'but I'm afraid it's little good you or anyone else can do him.'
But Florence did not hear, for she was galloping as fast as she could to the place where Cap was lying.
'Poor old fellow, poor old Cap,' whispered she, kneeling down and stroking his head, and Cap looked up to thank her.
'Let me examine his leg,' said the vicar, who had entered behind her; 'he does not hold it as if it were broken. No, I am sure it is not,' he added after a close inspection. 'Cheer up, we will soon have him well again.'
Florence's eyes brightened.
'What can I do?' she asked eagerly.
'Oh, make him a compress. That will take down the swelling,' replied the vicar, who was a little of a doctor himself.
'A compress?' repeated Florence, wrinkling her forehead. 'But I never heard of one. I don't know how.'
'Light a fire and boil some water, and then wring out some cloths in it, and put them on Cap's paw. Here is a boy who will make a fire for you,' he added, beckoning to a lad who was passing outside.
While the fire was kindling, Florence looked about to find the cloths. But the shepherd did not seem to have any, and her own little handkerchief would not do any good. Still, cloths she must have, and those who knew Miss Nightingale in after years would tell you that when she wanted things she got them.
'Ah, there is Roger's smock,' she exclaimed with delight. 'Oh, do tear it up for me; mamma will be sure to give me another for him.' So the vicar tore the strong linen into strips, and Florence wrung them out in the boiling water, as he had told her.
'Now, Cap, be a good dog; you know I only want to help you,' she cried, and Cap seemed as if he did know; for though a little tremble ran through his body as the hot cloth touched him, he never tried to bite, nor even groaned with the pain, as many children would have done. By and by the lump was certainly smaller, and the look of pain in Cap's eyes began to disappear.
Suddenly she glanced up at the vicar, who had been all this time watching her.
'I can't leave Cap till he is quite better,' she said. 'Can you get that boy to go to Embley and tell them where I am? Then they won't be frightened.' So the boy was sent, and Florence sat on till the setting sun shot long golden darts into the hut.
Then she heard the shepherd fumbling with the latch, as if he could not see to open it; and perhaps he couldn't, for in his hand he held the rope which was to put an end to all Cap's sorrows. But Cap did not know the meaning of the rope and only saw his old master. He gave a little bark of greeting and struggled on to his three sound legs, wagging his tail in welcome.
Roger could hardly believe his eyes, and Florence laughed with delight.
'Just look how much better he is,' she said. 'The swelling is very nearly gone now. But he wants some more compresses. Come and help me make them.'
'I think we can leave Roger to nurse Cap,' said the vicar, who had just returned from some of the neighbouring cottages. 'Your patient must have some bread and milk to-night, and to-morrow you can come to see how he is.'
'Yes, of course I shall,' answered Florence, and she knelt down to kiss Cap's nose before the vicar put her up on her pony.
Now, though Florence was so fond of flowers and animals and everything out of doors, she was never dull in the house on a wet day. In the first place, nothing was ever allowed to interfere with her lessons, and though the little girls had a good governess, their father chose the books they were to read and the subjects they were to study. Greek, Latin, and mathematics he taught them himself, and besides he took care that they could read and speak French, German, and Italian. They were fond of poetry, and no doubt some of the earliest poems of young Mr. Tennyson were among their favourites, as well as 'Lycidas' and the songs of the cavaliers. Parthy was a better artist and a cleverer musician than Florence, though she could sing and sketch; but both were good needlewomen, and could make samplers as well as do fine work and embroidery. When school-time was over and the rain was still coming down, they would run away to their dolls, who, poor things, were always ill, so that Florence might have the pleasure of curing them. And though before Cap's accident she had never heard of a compress, she could make nice food for them at the nursery fire, and bandage their broken arms and legs while Parthy held the wounded limb steady.
* * * * *
When they grew older, they went abroad now and then with their parents, but Florence liked best being at home with her friends in the village, who were very proud of her wishing to take their pictures with her new photographic camera. If they had only known it, the children in their best clothes standing up very stiff and straight did not look half as pretty as the baskets of kittens with eyes half-innocent, half-wise, or the funny little pups, so round and fat. But the parents thought the portraits of their children the most beautiful things in the world, and had them put into hideous gilt frames and hung on the walls, where Florence could see them on her frequent visits.
Welcome as she was to all, it was the sick people who awaited her coming the most eagerly. She was so quiet in her movements, and knew so exactly what to do without talking or fussing about it, that the invalids grew less restless in her presence, and believed so entirely that she really could cure them that they were half cured already! Then before she left she would read them 'a chapter' or a story to make them laugh, or anything else they wished for; and it was always a pleasure to listen to her, for she never stammered, or yawned, or lost her place, or had any of the tricks that often make reading aloud a penance to the victim.
For the young people both in Derbyshire and Hampshire she formed singing classes, and some of her 'societies' continue to-day. She was full of interest in other people's lives, and not only was ready to help them but enjoyed doing so, which makes all the difference.
* * * * *
There is much nonsense talked in the world about 'born' actors, and 'born' artists, and 'born' nurses. No doubt some are 'born' with greater gifts in these matters than others, but the most famous artists or actors or nurses will all tell you that the only work which is lasting has been wrought by long hours of patient labour. Miss Nightingale knew this as well as anybody, and as soon as she began to think of doing what no modern lady had ever done before her, and devoting her life to the care of the sick, she set about considering how she could best find the training she needed. She tried, to use her own words, 'to qualify herself for it as a man does for his work,' and to 'submit herself to the rules of business as men do.'
So she spent some months among the London hospitals, where her quick eye and clever fingers, aided by her cottage experience, made her a welcome help to the doctors. From the first she 'began at the beginning,' which is the only way to come to a successful end. A sick person cannot get well where the floor is covered with dirt, and the dust makes him cough; therefore his nurse must get rid of both dirt and dust before her treatment can have any effect. After London, Miss Nightingale went to Edinburgh and Dublin, and then to France and Italy, where the nursing was done by nuns; and after that she visited Germany, where at the town of Kaiserswerth, on the Rhine, she found what she wanted.
The hospital of Kaiserswerth, where Miss Nightingale had decided to do her training, had been founded about sixteen years earlier by Pastor Fliedner, who was a wise man, content with very small beginnings. At the time of her arrival it was divided into a number of branches, and there was also a school for the children, who were taught entirely by some of the sisters, or deaconesses, as they were called. On entering, everyone had to go through the same work for a certain number of months, whether they meant to be hospital nurses or school teachers. All must learn to sew, cook, scrub, and read out clearly and pleasantly; but as Miss Nightingale had practised most of these things from the time she was a child, she soon was free to go into the hospital and attend to the sick people. The other nurses were German peasant women, but when they found that she could speak their language, and was ready to work as hard as any of them, they made friends at once. In her spare hours Miss Nightingale would put on her black cloak and small bonnet, and go round to the cottages with Mr. Fliedner, as long ago she had done with the vicar of Embley, and we may be sure any sick people whom she visited were always left clean and comfortable when she said good-bye.
But at Kaiserswerth Miss Nightingale had very little chance of learning any surgery, so she felt that she could not do better than pass some time in Paris with the nursing sisterhood of St. Vincent de Paul, which had been established about two hundred years earlier. Here, too, she went with the sisters on their rounds, both in the hospitals and in the homes of the poor, and learnt how best to help the people without turning them into beggars. Every part of the work interested her, but the long months of hard labour and food which was often scanty and always different from what she had hitherto had, began to tell on her. She fell ill, and in her turn had to be looked after by the sisters, and no doubt in many ways she learned more of sick nursing when she was a patient than she did when she was a nurse.
* * * * *
It was quite clear that it would be necessary for her to have a good rest before she grew strong again, and so she went back to Embley, and afterwards to Lea, and tried to forget that there was any such thing as sickness. But it is not easy for people who are known to be able and willing to have peace anywhere, and soon letters came pouring in to Miss Nightingale begging for her help in all sorts of ways. As far as she could she undertook it all, and often performed the most troublesome of all tasks, that of setting right the mistakes of others. In the end her health broke down again, but not till she had finished what she had set herself to do.
* * * * *
It was in March 1854 that war broke out between England, France, and Turkey on the one side, and Russia on the other. The battle-ground was to be the little peninsula of the Crimea, and soon the Black Sea was crowded with ships carrying eager soldiers, many of them young and quite ignorant of the hardships that lay before them.
At first all seemed going well; the victory of the Alma was won on September 20, 1854, and that of Balaclava on October 25, the anniversary of Agincourt. But while the hearts of all men were still throbbing at the splendid madness of the charge when, owing to a mistaken order, the Light Brigade rode out to take the Russian guns and were mown down by hundreds, the rain began to fall in torrents and a winter of unusual coldness was upon them. Nights as well as days were passed in the trenches that had been dug before the strong fortress of Sebastopol, which the allies were besieging, and the suffering of our English soldiers was far greater than it need have been, owing to the wickedness of many of the contractors who had undertaken to supply the army with boots and stores, and did not hesitate to get these so cheap and bad as to be quite useless, while the rest of the money set aside for the purpose was put into their pockets. The doctors gave themselves no rest, but there were not half enough of them, while of nurses there were none. The men did what they could for one another, but they had their own work to attend to, and besides, try as they would it was impossible for them to fill the place of a trained and skilful woman. So they, as well as their dying comrades lying patiently on the sodden earth, looked longingly at the big white caps of the French sisters, who for their part would gladly have given help and comfort had not the wounded of their own nation taken all their time. One or two of the English officers had been followed to the Crimea by their wives, and these ladies cooked for and tended the sick men who were placed in rows along the passages of the barracks, but even lint for bandages was lacking to them, and after the Alma they wrote letters to their friends in England entreating that no time might be lost in sending out proper aid.
These letters were backed by a strong appeal from the war correspondent of the Times, Dr. W. H. Russell, and from the day that his plain account of the privations and horrors of the suffering army appeared in the paper, the War Office was besieged by women begging to be sent to the Crimea by the first ship. The minister, Mr. Sidney Herbert, did not refuse their offers; though they were without experience and full of excitement, he saw that most of them were deeply in earnest and under a capable head might be put to a good use. But where was such a head to be found? Then suddenly there darted into his mind the thought of Miss Nightingale, his friend for years past.
It was on October 15 that Mr. Sidney Herbert wrote to Miss Nightingale offering her, in the name of the government, the post of Superintendent of the nurses in the East, with absolute authority over her staff; and, curiously enough, on the very same day she had written to him proposing to go out at once to the Black Sea. As no time was to be lost, it was clear that most of the thirty-eight nurses she was to take with her must be women of a certain amount of training and experience. Others might follow when they had learnt a little what nursing really meant, but they were of no use now. So Miss Nightingale went round to some Church of England and Roman Catholic sisterhoods and chose out the strongest and most intelligent of those who were willing to go, the remainder being sent her by friends whose judgment she could trust. Six days after Sidney Herbert had written his letter, the band of nurses started from Charing Cross.
When after a very rough passage they reached the great hospital of Scutari, situated on a hill above the Bosphorus, they heard the news of the fight at Balaclava and learnt that a battle was expected to take place next day at Inkerman. The hospital was an immense building in the form of a square, and was able to hold several thousand men. It had been lent to us by the Turks, but was in a fearfully dirty state and most unfit to receive the wounded men who were continually arriving in ships from the Crimea. Often the vessels were so loaded that the few doctors had not had time to set the broken legs and arms of the men, and many must have died of blood poisoning from the dirt which got into their undressed wounds. Oftener still they had little or no food, and even with help were too weak to walk from the ship to the hospital. And as for rats! why there seemed nearly as many rats as patients.
The first thing to be done was to unpack the stores, to boil water so that the wounds could be washed, to put clean sheets on the beds, and make the men as comfortable as possible. The doctors, overworked and anxious as they were, did not give the nurses a very warm welcome. As far as their own experience went, women in a hospital were always in the way, and instead of helpers became hinderers. But Miss Nightingale took no heed of ungracious words and cold looks. She did her own business quietly and without fuss, and soon brought order out of confusion, and a feeling of confidence where before there had been despair. If an operation had to be performed—and at that time chloroform was so newly invented that the doctors were almost afraid to give it, Miss Nightingale, 'the Lady-in-Chief,' was present by the side of the wounded man to give him courage to bear the pain and to fill him with hope for the future. And not many days after her arrival, her coming was eagerly watched for by the multitudes of sick and half-starved soldiers who were lying along the walls of the passages because the beds were all full.
It is really hardly possible for us to understand all that the nurses had to do. First the wards must be kept clean, or the invalids would grow worse instead of better. Then proper food must be cooked for them, or they would never grow strong. Those who were most ill needed special care, lest a change for the worse might come unnoticed; and besides all this a laundry was set up, so that a constant supply of fresh linen might be at hand. In a little while, when some of the wounds were healing and the broken heads had ceased to ache, there would come shy petitions from the beds that the nurse would write them a letter home, to say that they had been more fortunate than their comrades and were still alive, and hoped to be back in England some day.
'Well, tell me what you want to say, and I will say it,' the nurse would answer, but it is not very easy to dictate a letter if you have never tried, so it soon ended with the remark,
'Oh! nurse, you write it for me! You will say it much better than I can.'
Would you like to know how the nurses passed their days? Well, first they got up very early, made their beds, put their rooms tidy, and went down to the kitchen, where they had some bread, which was mostly sour, and some tea without milk. Then arrowroot and beef tea had to be made for the men, and when the night nurses took their turn to rest, those who were on duty by day went into the wards and stayed there from half-past nine till two, washing and dressing and feeding the men and talking over their illnesses with the doctors, who by this time were thankful for their aid. At two the men were left to rest or sleep while their tired nurses had their dinner, and little as they might like it, they thought it their duty to swallow a plateful of very bad meat and some porter. At three some of them often took a short walk, but that November the rains were constant and very heavy at Scutari as well as in the Crimea, and as Miss Nightingale would allow no risk of catching cold, on these days the nurses all stayed in the hospital, where there was always something to be done or cooked for the patients, who required in their weak state to be constantly fed. At half-past five the nurses left the wards and went to their tea, but that did not take long, and soon they were back again making everything comfortable for the night, which began with the entrance of the night nurses at half-past nine.
It was a hard life, and when one remembers how bad their own food was, it is a marvel that any of them were able to bear it for so long. But, as Shakespeare says, 'Nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so,' and it is wonderful how far a brave spirit will carry one. Still, heavy though the nurses' work was, that of Miss Nightingale was far more of a strain. It was she on whom everything depended, who had to think and plan and look forward, and write accounts of it all to Mr. Sidney Herbert in London, and lord Raglan, the Commander-in-Chief, at the Crimea. The orderlies of the regiment gave her willing aid, but they needed to be taught what to do, and no doubt the Lady-in-Chief often found that it is far quicker and easier to do things oneself than to spend time in training another person. Luckily she was prompt to see the different uses to which men and women could be put, so that there were no wasted days or weeks, caused by setting them tasks for which they were unfitted, and in a very short while the hospital, which had been a scene of horror on her arrival from England, was a well-arranged and most comfortable place.
But not only were there soldiers to be cared for, there were also their wives and children, who were almost forgotten and huddled together in a corner of the barracks, with few clothes and hardly any food. Miss Nightingale took them under her charge, and placed them in a clean house close by, giving some of the women work in her laundry and finding employment for the rest, with the help of the wife of one of the chaplains. The children were taught for several hours in the day, and thus their mothers were left free to earn money to support them, while the widows were given clothes and money, and as soon as possible sent home.
One morning, as the Lady-in-Chief went her rounds, the men noticed that her face was brighter than usual and looked as if something had pleased her very much. So it had, and in the afternoon, when they were all resting comfortably, they knew what it was. One of the chaplains went from ward to ward reading a letter which Queen Victoria had written to Mr. Sidney Herbert, and this was how it ran:—
Windsor Castle, December 6, 1854.
'Would you tell Mrs. Herbert that I begged she would let me see frequently the accounts she received from Miss Nightingale or Mrs. Bracebridge, as I hear no details of the wounded, though I see so many from officers, &c., about the battlefield, and naturally the former must interest me most.
'Let Mrs. Herbert also know that I wish Miss Nightingale and the ladies would tell those 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 Prince. 'Victoria.'
'God save the Queen,' said the chaplain when he had finished, and from their hearts the men raised a feeble shout, 'God save the Queen.'
* * * * *
Soon another detachment of nurses arrived from home and undertook the charge of other hospitals along the shores of the Bosphorus. They were led by Miss Stanley, sister of the famous dean of Westminster, and the band consisted partly of ladies who gave their services and partly of nurses who were paid. Some Irish sisters of mercy also accompanied them, and these were allowed to wear their nun's dress, but the others must have looked very funny in the Government uniform—loose gowns of grey tweed, worsted jackets, short woollen cloaks, and scarves of brown holland with 'Scutari Hospital' in red letters across them. They were all made the same size, and 'in consequence,' adds sister Mary Aloysius, who was thankful that she did not need to present such an odd figure, 'the tall ladies appeared to be attired in short dresses, and the short ladies in long.'
Clad in these strange clothes they reached their destination and were placed by Miss Nightingale wherever she thought they were most needed. Cholera was now raging and the rain in the Crimea had turned to bitter cold, so that hundreds of men were brought in frost-bitten. Often their garments, generally of thin linen, were frozen so tightly to their bodies that they had first to be softened with oil and then cut off. The stories of their sufferings are too terrible to tell, but scarcely one murmured, and all were grateful for the efforts to ease their pain. If death came, as it often did, Miss Nightingale was there to listen to their last wishes.
* * * * *
All through the spring the cholera raged, and at length some of the nurses, weakened by the strain on mind and body, and the lack of nourishing food, fell victims. One of them was a personal friend of Miss Nightingale's, others were Irish nuns working in Balaclava, and their graves were kept gay with flowers planted by the soldiers. Thus the Lady-in-Chief found them when in May 1855 she set out to inspect the hospitals in the Crimea.
What a rest it must have been to be able to lie on deck and watch the blue waters without feeling that every moment of peace was stolen from some duty. She had several nurses with her; also her friend Mr. Bracebridge, whose wife had taken charge of the stores at Scutari, and a little drummer of twelve, called Thomas, who got amusement out of everything and kept up their spirits when the outlook seemed gloomiest.
The moment she landed Miss Nightingale, accompanied by a train of doctors, went at once to the hospitals, thus missing lord Raglan who came to give her a hearty welcome. Next day, when as in duty bound she returned his visit, she had the pleasure once more of feeling a horse under her, and old memories came back and it seemed as if she was again a child riding with the vicar. As we are told by a Frenchman that she wore a regular riding-dress, she probably borrowed this from one of the four English ladies then in the Crimea, for she is not likely to have had a habit of her own. Her horse was fresh and spirited and nervous, after the manner of horses, and the noise and confusion of the road that led to the camp was too much for his nerves. He plunged and kicked and reared and bucked, and did all that a horse does when he wants to be unpleasant, but Miss Nightingale did not mind at all—in fact she quite enjoyed it.
All day long the Lady-in-Chief went about, visiting the hospitals and even penetrating into the trenches while sharp firing was going on. The weather was intensely hot—for it is the greatest mistake to look on the Crimea, which is as far south as Venice or Genoa, as being always cold—and one day Miss Nightingale was struck down with sudden fever. She was at once taken to the Sanatorium on a stretcher, which was followed by the faithful Thomas, and great was the dismay and sorrow of the whole camp. Fortunately after a fortnight she began to recover, thanks to the care that was taken of her, but she absolutely refused to go home, as the doctors wished her to do, and, weak though she was, returned to Scutari, where soon afterwards she heard of her friend lord Raglan's death, which was a great shock to her. It was some time before she was strong enough to go back to her work, and she spent many hours wandering about the cypress-planted cemetery at Scutari, where so many English soldiers lay buried, and in planning a memorial to them which was afterwards set up.
* * * * *
In September Sebastopol fell and the war was over, but the sick and wounded were still uncured. It was hard for them to hear of their comrades going home proud and happy in the honours they had won, while they were left behind in pain and weariness, but it would have been infinitely harder without the knowledge that Miss Nightingale would bear them company to the end. After all they stood on English ground before she did, as when she was well enough she sailed a second time for the Crimea to finish the work which her illness had caused her to leave undone.
All through the winter of 1855 she stayed there, driving over the snow-covered mountains in a little carriage made for the purpose, which had been given her as a present. Sick soldiers there were in plenty in the hospitals, and for some time there was an army also, to keep order until the peace was signed. In order to give the soldiers occupation and amusement, she begged her friends at home to send out books and magazines to them, and this the queen and her mother, the duchess of Kent, were the first to do. Nothing was too small for the Lady-in-Chief to think of; she arranged some lectures, got up classes for the children and for anyone who wanted to learn; started a cafe, in hopes to save the men from drinking; and kept a money-order office herself, so that the men could, if they wished, send part of their pay home to their families. And when in July 1856 the British army set sail for England, Miss Nightingale stayed behind to see a white marble cross twenty feet high set up on a peak above Balaclava. It was a memorial from her to the thousands who had died at the mountain's foot, in battle or in the trenches.
* * * * *
Honours and gifts showered on Miss Nightingale on all sides, and everybody was eager to show how highly they valued her self-sacrificing labours. If money had been wanted, it would have poured in from all quarters; but when the queen had made inquiries on the subject a year before Miss Nightingale's return, Mr. Sidney Herbert replied that what the Lady-in-Chief desired above everything was the foundation of a hospital in which her own special system of nursing could be carried out. The idea was welcomed with enthusiasm, but none of the sums sent were as dear to Miss Nightingale's heart as the day's pay subscribed by the soldiers and sailors. The fund was applied to founding a home and training school for nurses, attached to St. Thomas' hospital, and Miss Nightingale helped to plan the new buildings opposite the Houses of Parliament, to which the patients were afterwards moved.
* * * * *
Miss Nightingale came home with her aunt, Mrs. Smith, calling herself 'Miss Smith' so that she might travel unrecognised, but that disguise could not be kept up when she got back to Lea Hurst. Crowds thronged to see her from the neighbouring towns, and the lodge-keeper had a busy time. However, her father would not allow her to be worried. She needed rest, he said, and she should have it; and if addresses and plate and testimonials should pour in (as they did, in quantities) someone else could write thanks at her dictation. All round Lea Hurst her large Russian dog was an object of reverence, and as for Thomas the drummer-boy—well, if you could not see Miss Nightingale herself, you might spend hours of delight in listening to Thomas, who certainly could tell you far more thrilling tales than his mistress would ever have done.
We should all like to know what became of Thomas.
* * * * *
Miss Nightingale is still living, but the privations and over-work of those terrible months had so broken her down that for the last forty years she has been more or less of an invalid. Still, her interest is as wide as ever in all that could help her fellows, and though she was unable to go among them as of old, she was ready to help and advise, either personally or by letter. If she had given her health and the outdoor pleasures that she loved so much in aid of the sick and suffering, she had won in exchange a position and an influence for good such as no other woman has ever held.
* * * * *
Since this little account was written, the king has conferred on her the highest honour he could bestow on a woman, the Order of Merit, while the lord mayor of London and the corporation have given her the freedom of the City. Thus her life will end in the knowledge that she has gained the only honours worth having, those which have not been sought.
PRISONERS AND CAPTIVES
I am afraid you will think this a sad story, and so it is, but things would have been sadder still but for the man I am going to tell you about. His name was John Howard, and if you were to ask, 'Which John Howard?' the answer would be, 'John Howard the Philanthropist,' which means 'a lover of men.'
* * * * *
It is a great title for anyone to win, and no one ever earned it more truly than this son of the rich upholsterer of Smithfield, born in Clapton, then a country village of the parish of Hackney, in 1727. As you will see by and by, Howard spent the last seventeen years of his life in fighting three giants who were very hard to beat, named Ignorance, Sloth, and Dirt; and it is all the more difficult to overcome them because they are generally to be met with together. Unfortunately, they never can be wholly killed, for when you think they are left dead on the field after a hard struggle, they always come to life again; but they have never been quite so strong since the war waged on them by John Howard, who died fighting against them in a Russian city.
* * * * *
Howard had always been a delicate boy, which made it all the more wonderful that he could bear the fatigue of the long journeys which he undertook to help people who could not help themselves. He was married twice, but neither of his wives lived long, and he had only one little boy to look after. But when the child was four years old, Howard felt that it was dull for him to be alone with his father, and without any play-fellows, so he sent him to a small school kept by some ladies, where little John, or 'Master Howard,' as it was the fashion to call him, would be well taken care of.
Howard was a quiet man, and very religious, but, what was rare in those times, he did not believe everybody in the wrong who thought differently from himself. He lived quietly among his books on a small estate he owned near Bedford, called Cardington, where he studied astronomy and questions about heat and cold, and when only twenty-nine was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Medicine always interested him, and he learned enough of it to be very useful to him during his travels; indeed, it was owing to his fame as a doctor that he was summoned to see a young Russian lady dying of fever, which, according to many, infected him, and caused his own death. In his studies and in the care of his tenants many peaceful years passed away. The man who afterwards became known as the champion of 'prisoners and captives, and all who were desolate and oppressed,' did not allow his own tenants to live in unhealthy and uncomfortable cottages crowded together in tiny rooms with water dropping on to their beds from the badly thatched roofs, like many other landlords both in his day and ours. He opened schools for the children, and drew up rules for them. The girls were taught reading and needlework, the boys reading and a little arithmetic. Writing does not seem to have been thought necessary, as none of the girls learned it, and only a few of the boys—probably the cleverer ones. On Sundays they were all expected to go to church or chapel, whichever their parents preferred.
* * * * *
In spite of the generosity which made John Howard ready to give money or time to any scheme that seemed likely to be of use to the poor, he was not popular with his neighbours, and saw very little of them. They thought him 'odd' because he did not care for races, or cock-fights, or long dinners that lasted far into the night, where the gentlemen often drank so much that they could not get home at all. Year by year Howard was teaching himself to do without things, and by and by he was able to live on green tea and a little bread and vegetables, with fruit now and then as a great treat. No wonder he was considered eccentric by the Bedfordshire country gentlemen!
* * * * *
But, in spite of his quiet ways, Howard had a passion for travelling, and when a youth threw up the position of grocer's apprentice which his father had obtained for him, and started for France and Italy. Immediately after the death of his first wife he determined to go for a change to Lisbon, then lying in ruins after the recent earthquake. Before, however, his ship was out of the English Channel it was attacked and overpowered by a French privateer, and both crew and passengers were left without anything to eat or drink for nearly two days. They were then taken to the prison at Brest, thrown into a dark and horribly dirty dungeon, and apparently forgotten. Besides hunger and thirst, they went through terrible pangs, fearing lest they were to be left to starve; but at length the heavy bolts of the iron door were shot back, and a leg of mutton was thrust inside. Nobody had a knife, every weapon had been taken from them, and if they had, they were all too hungry to wait to use it. They sprang on the food like wolves and gnawed it like dogs.
For a week they all remained in their dungeon, and then Howard, at any rate, was allowed to leave it, and was sent first to Morlaix and then to Carpaix, where he was kindly treated by the gaoler, in whose house he lived. Howard gave his word that he would not try to escape, and for two months he remained there—a prisoner on parole, as it is called—writing letters to prisoners he had left behind him, who had not been so fortunate as himself. From what he had gone through he could easily guess what they were suffering, and determined that when once he got back to England he would do everything in his power to obtain their freedom.
In two months Howard was informed by his friend the gaoler that the governor had decided that he should be sent to England, in order that he might arrange to be exchanged for a French naval officer, after swearing that in case this could not be managed, he would return as a prisoner to Brest. It was a great trial of any man's good faith, but it was not misplaced, and happily the exchange was easily made. No sooner were his own affairs settled than Howard set about freeing his countrymen, and very shortly some English ships were sent to Brest with a cargo of French prisoners and came back with an equal number of English ones, all of whom owed their liberty to Howard's exertions.
His captivity in France first gave him an idea of the state of prisons and the sufferings of prisoners, but eighteen years were to pass before the improvement of their condition became the business of his life.
* * * * *
Mr. Howard was appointed high sheriff for the county of Bedford in 1773, and as such had the prisons under his charge. The high sheriffs who had gone before him were of course equally bound to see that everything inside the gaol was clean and well-ordered, but nobody really expected them to trouble their heads about the matter, and certainly they never did. However, Mr. Howard's notion of his duty was very different. He at once visited the county prison in Bedford, and the misery that he found there was repeated almost exactly in nearly every prison in the British Isles. The gaoler in Bedford—and in many other places—had no salary paid him, and therefore screwed all he could out of his prisoners; and no matter if a man were innocent or guilty, if a jury had condemned him or not, he must pay fifteen shillings and fourpence to the gaoler, and two shillings to the warder who brought him his food—when he had any—before he was set free. If, as often happened, the prisoners could not find the money, well, they were locked up till they died, or till the fees were paid.
When Howard informed the magistrates of what he had found, they were as much shocked as if it had not been their business to have known all about it.
'A dreadful state of things, indeed!' they said, 'and they were greatly obliged to Mr. Howard for having discovered it. Yes, certainly, the criminals and those who had been confined for debt alone ought to be placed in different parts of the prison, and the men and women should be separated, and an infirmary built for the sick. Oh! they were quite willing to do it, but the cost would be very heavy, and the people might decline to pay it, unless the high sheriff could point to any other county which supported its own gaol.'
* * * * *
At the moment, the high sheriff could not, but he had no doubt that such a county would be easily found, so he at once started on a visit to some of the prisons, but, to his surprise, he did not discover one in which the gaoler was paid a fixed salary. And the more he saw of the prisons, the more he was grieved at their condition. Almost all had dungeons for criminals built underground, dark, damp, and dirty, and sometimes as much as twenty feet below the surface; and often these dungeons were very small and very crowded. Mats or, in a few of the better-managed prisons, straw was given the prisoners to lie on, but no coverings, and those who were imprisoned for debt were expected to pay for their own food or go without it.
* * * * *
Sick at heart with all that he had seen, Howard went home for a short rest, and then set out again on one of those tours on which he spent the remaining years of his life, never thinking that the work was done when he had reported on the terrible evils of the prison system, but always returning to make sure that his advice had been carried out, which it often was not. Curious to say, there are few instances of difficulties being put in the way of his inspecting the prisons in any of the countries which he visited, while about six months after his labours began, he was called to the bar of the House of Commons, and publicly thanked for his services in behalf of those who could not help themselves.
Mr. Howard was pleased and touched at the honour done him, and at the proof that
Evil is wrought by want of Thought, As well as by want of Heart;
but he was much more gratified by two laws that were passed during that session, one for relieving innocent prisoners from paying fees, and the other for insisting on certain rules being carried out which were necessary to keep the prisoners in good health.
* * * * *
This last Act was greatly needed. The bad air, the dirt, and the closeness of the rooms constantly produced an illness called gaol fever, from which numbers of prisoners died yearly, one catching it from the other. Nominally, a doctor was attached to every prison, but instead of being ready, as doctors generally are, to risk their lives for their patients, these men usually showed great cowardice. In Exeter, the doctor when appointed had it set down in writing that he should not be obliged to attend anyone suffering from gaol fever; in the county gaol for Cornwall, every prisoner but one was ill of this disease when Howard paid his first visit there. And no wonder, for here the prison consisted of only one room with a small window, and three 'dungeons or cages,' the one for women being only five feet long. The food was let down to them through a hole in the floor of the room above.
In Derby, Howard was thankful to see that things were far more what they ought to be. The rooms were larger and lighter, there was an infirmary for the sick, 'a neat chapel,' and even a bath, 'which the prisoners were required occasionally to use.' Here the debtors, instead of being nearly starved, were given the same allowance of food as the criminals. They were also supplied with plenty of straw, and had fires in the winter. Newcastle was still better managed, and here the doctor gave his services free; but the Durham gaol was in a terrible state, and when Howard went down into the dungeon he found several criminals lying there half-starved and chained to the floor. The reason of these differences probably lies in the fact that before Howard's time nobody had ever taken the trouble to visit the prisons or to see if the rules were carried out. If, as sometimes happened, the doctor and gaoler were kind-hearted men, anxious to do their duty, then the prisoners were tolerably well cared for. If, on the other hand, they were careless or cruel, the captives had to suffer. This Howard saw, and was resolved, as far as possible, to put the prisoners out of the power of the gaolers, who should be made to undergo a severe punishment for any neglect of duty. For in Howard's mind, though it was, of course, needful that men should learn that if they chose to commit crimes they must pay for them, yet he considered that so much useless misery only made the criminals harder and more brutal, and that the real object of punishment was to help people to correct their faults, and once more to become honest men and women.
* * * * *
Having satisfied himself of the state of the English prisons, and done what he could to improve them, Howard determined to discover how those in foreign countries were managed. Paris was the first place he stopped at, and the famous Bastille the first prison he visited. Here, however, he was absolutely refused admittance, and seems, according to his friend Dr. Aikin, to have narrowly escaped being detained as a prisoner himself. But once outside the walls he remembered having heard that an Act had been passed in 1717, when Louis XV. was seven years old and the duke of Orleans was regent, desiring all gaolers to admit into their prisons any persons who wished to bestow money on the prisoners, only stipulating that whatever was given to those confined in the dungeons should be offered in the presence of the gaoler.
Armed with this knowledge and a quantity of small coins, Howard called on the head of the police, who received him politely and gave him a written pass to the chief prisons in Paris. These he found very bad, with dungeons in some of 'these seats of woe beyond imagination horrid and dreadful,' yet not apparently any worse than many on this side of the Channel.
* * * * *
After Howard's dismal experiences in England, Scotland, Ireland, and France, it must have given him heartfelt pleasure to visit the prisons in Belgium, which, with scarcely an exception, were 'all fresh and clean, no gaol distemper, no prisoners in irons.' The bread allowance 'far exceeds that of any of our gaols. Two pounds of bread a day, soup once, with a pound of meat on Sunday.' This was in Brussels, but when he went on to Ghent, things were better still.
Like most of the large towns of Flanders, Ghent had a stirring history, and its townspeople were rich and prosperous. At the time of Howard's visit, it was part of the dominions of the emperor Joseph II., brother of Marie Antoinette, and by his orders a large prison was in course of building. Though not yet finished, it already contained more than a hundred and fifty men, and Howard felt as if he must be dreaming when he saw that each of these prisoners had a room to himself, a bedstead, a mattress, a pillow, a pair of sheets, with two blankets in winter and one in summer. Everything was very clean, and the food plentiful and wholesome. But, besides all this, Howard noted with a feeling of envy two customs which so far he had tried in vain to introduce into England. One was that the men and the women should be kept apart, and the other, that they should be given useful work to employ their time. In England, a prisoner was sometimes condemned to 'hard labour,' but this was a mere form. There was no system arranged beforehand for the employment of convicts, and indeed, till more light was admitted into the English prisons, it was too dark to work at anything, so they just sat with the other criminals in the dark, stifling dungeons, with nothing to do and nothing to think of!
A more horrible punishment could not have been invented, and if the criminal left the prison at all, he was sure to come out even worse than he went in. And how was anything else possible?
* * * * *
Now in Ghent, and in most of the Flemish prisons, it was all as different as could be. The women sat in work-rooms of their own, when they had finished cleaning and cooking, mending all their own and the men's clothes, which it was part of their duty to wash. This done, wool in what is called its 'raw state' was served out to them—that is, wool as it had been taken off the sheep's fleece—and they had to comb out all the tangles, and spin it into long skeins. Then the skeins were taken to the men, many of whom were weavers by trade, and by them it was woven into cloth which was sold.
Thus, in doing work in which they could occupy themselves and take a pride, the prisoners unconsciously ceased to think all day of the bad lives they had led, and longed to lead again; and when they had served the time of their sentences and were discharged, they had a trade to fall back on, and, what was still more important, the habit of working.
Besides this, the method of 'hard labour' carried out in the Ghent prison had another great advantage for the prisoners. Every day each person's work, which would take him a certain number of hours to finish, was dealt out, and when it was done, and done properly, the prisoners were allowed, if they chose, to go on working, and the profits of this work were put aside to be given them when they were discharged. And in Ghent the criminals were not left, as in England, to the mercy of the gaoler, nobody knowing and nobody caring what became of them, for the city magistrates went over the prison once every week, and also arranged what meals the prisoners were to have till the next meeting.
In a gaol in the beautiful old city of Bruges, the contrast between the care taken of the sick criminals and the numberless deaths from gaol fever in his own country filled Howard with the deepest shame. In Bruges, the doctors did not make stipulations that they should not be expected to visit infectious patients, but they wrote out their prescriptions in a book for the magistrates to read. Thus it was possible for the rulers of the city to judge for themselves how ill a man might be, and how he was being treated; and as long as the doctor considered him in need of it, fourteen pence daily—a much larger sum then than now—was allotted to provide soup and other nourishing food for the sick person.
* * * * *
When Howard passed from Belgium to Holland he found the same care, though here the rules respecting the gaolers were stricter, because they were responsible for the orderly state of the prison and the conduct of the prisoners.
The gaolers were forbidden, on pain of a fine, to be seen drinking in public-houses, to quarrel with the prisoners, and to use bad language to them, and, greatest difference of all from the prisons he was accustomed to, no strong drink was allowed to be sold within the walls! Debtors were few, while in England they were more numerous than the criminals; and in Amsterdam not a single person had been executed for ten years, whereas in Britain sheep-stealing and all sorts of petty offences were punished by hanging.
From Holland Mr. Howard travelled to Germany, where, as a whole, the same sort of rules prevailed; and in Hamburg, the wives of the magistrates went to the prisons every Saturday to give out the women's work. In some places the men were set to mend the roads, clean the bridges, clear away the snow, or do whatever the magistrates desired, and a guard with fixed bayonets always attended them. But they much preferred this labour, hard though it often was, to being shut up indoors, and looked healthy and cheerful.
* * * * *
After three months Mr. Howard returned home and inspected the prison at Dover, to find to his dismay everything exactly as before; and when, after a little rest, he set out on a second English tour, scarcely anywhere did he perceive an improvement. One small prison in the Forest of Dean was inhabited by two sick and half-starved men, who had been kept in one room for more than a year almost without water or fire or any allowance for food. In another, at Penzance, which consisted of two tiny rooms in a stable-yard, was one prisoner only, who would have died of hunger had it not been for a brother, even poorer than himself, who brought him just enough to keep him alive. Again and again Howard paid out of his own pocket the debts of many of those miserable people, which sometimes began by being no more than a shilling, but soon mounted up, with all the fees, to several pounds.
* * * * *
With only short intervals for rest, Howard went on travelling and inspecting, now in the British Isles and now abroad, and by slow degrees he began to see an improvement in the condition of the prisoners in his own country, whether criminals or debtors in gaols or convicts in the 'hulks,' as the rotten old ships used as prisons were called. He was careful never to leave a single cell unvisited, and spoke his mind freely both to the keepers and to the magistrates. The House of Commons always listened with eagerness to all he had to tell, and passed several Bills which should have changed things much for the better. But the difficulty lay, not in making the law, but in getting it carried out.
It is wonderful how, during all these travels and the hours spent in the horrible atmosphere of the prisons, a delicate man like Howard so seldom was ill. Luckily he knew enough of medicine to teach him to take some simple precautions, and he never entered a hospital or prison before breakfast. Dresden and Venice appear to have been the two cities on the Continent where the prisoners were the worst treated, many of them wearing irons, and few of them having enough food.
* * * * *
It would be impossible to give an account of all Howard's journeys, which included Italy, Russia, Turkey, Germany, France, and Holland, but I have told you enough for you to understand what a task he had undertaken. When he was abroad he was sometimes entreated to attend private patients, so widely had his fame spread; and though he did not pretend to be a doctor, he never refused to give any help that was possible, and it was through this kindness that he lost his life. Once, during a visit to Constantinople, he received a message from a man high in the Sultan's favour, begging him to come and see his daughter, as she was suffering great pain and none of the doctors could do anything to relieve her. Howard asked the girl some questions, and felt her pulse, and then gave some simple directions for her treatment which soon took away the pain, and in a few days she was nearly well. Her father was so grateful that he offered Howard a large sum of money, just as he would have done to one of his own countrymen, and was struck dumb when Howard declined the gift, and asked instead for a bunch of the beautiful grapes that he had seen hanging in the garden. As soon as the official had made sure that his ears had not deceived him, he ordered a large supply of the finest grapes to be sent to Howard daily as long as he stayed in Constantinople.
So for a whole month we can imagine him enjoying the Pasha's grapes, in addition to the vegetables, bread, and water which formed his usual meals, taken at any hour that happened to be convenient. If he wished to go to visit a prison or hospital or lazaretto, there was no need to put it off because 'it would interfere with his dinner-hour,' for his dinner could be eaten any time. Not that there were any hospitals, properly speaking, in Constantinople; for though there was a place in the Greek quarter to which sick people were sent, hardly a single doctor could be found to attend them, and the only real hospital in the capital was for the benefit of cats.
* * * * *
Now in most of the great seaport towns along the Mediterranean, lazarettos, or pest-houses, were built, so that passengers on arriving from plague-stricken countries should be placed in confinement for forty days, till there was no fear of their infecting the people. In England, in spite of her large trade with foreign lands, there were no such buildings, and it is only wonderful that the plague was so little heard of. Howard determined to insist on the wisdom and necessity of the foreign plan; but as he always made his reports from experience and not from hearsay, he felt that the time had come when he should first visit the lazarettos, and then go through the forty days' quarantine himself.
This experiment was more dangerous than any he had yet tried, so instead of taking a servant with him, as had generally been his habit, he set out alone in November 1785.
* * * * *
As regards lazarettos, he found, as he had found with regard to prisons and hospitals, that their condition depended in a great degree on the amount of care taken by the ruler of the city. In Italy there were several that were extremely well managed, especially in the dominions of the grand duke of Tuscany; but he had made up his mind that when the moment came for his quarantine it should be undergone in Venice, the most famous lazaretto of them all. He took ship eastwards, and visited the great leper hospital at the Island of Scio, where everything was done to make the poor creatures as comfortable as possible. Each person had his own room and a garden of his own, where he could grow figs, almonds, and other fruit, besides herbs for cooking.
From Scio Howard sailed to Smyrna, and then changed into another vessel, bound for Venice, which he knew would be put in quarantine the moment it arrived in the city. The winds were contrary and the voyage slow, and off the shores of Greece they were attacked by one of the 'Barbary corsairs' who infested the Mediterranean. The Smyrna crew fought hard, for well they knew the terrors of the fate that awaited them if captured, and when their shot was exhausted they loaded their biggest gun with spikes and nails, and anything else that came handy. Howard himself aimed it, and after it had fired a few rounds, the enemy spread his black sails and retired.
* * * * *
At length, after two months, Venice was reached, and as a passenger on board a ship from an infected port, Howard was condemned to forty days' quarantine in the new lazaretto. His cell was as dirty as any dungeon in any English prison, and had neither chair, table, nor bed. His first care was to clean it, but it was so long since anyone had thought of doing such a thing that it was nearly as long before the dirt could be made to disappear, and meanwhile he was attacked by the same headache which had always marked his visit to such places, and in a short time became so ill that he was removed to the old lazaretto. Here he was rather worse off than before, for the water came so close to the walls that the stone floor was always wet, and in a week's time he was given a third apartment, this time consisting of four rooms, but all without furniture and as dirty as the first.
Ordinary washing was again useless to remove the thick coating of filth of all kinds, and at length Howard felt himself getting so ill that by the help of the English consul he was allowed to have some brushes and lime, which by mixing with water became whitewash. He then brushed down the walls without hindrance from anyone, though he had made up his mind that if the guard tried to stop him, he would lock him up in one of the rooms. Almost directly he grew better, and was able to enjoy his tea and bread once more.
The rules for purification of the infected ships were most strict, but it depended on the prior, or head of the lazaretto, whether they were carried out or not. All woollen, cotton, and silk materials, which were specially liable to carry infection, were carefully cleansed. The bags in which they were packed were all emptied, and the men belonging to the lazaretto were strictly forbidden to touch them with their hands, and always used canes to turn over the contents of the bags. This was done daily for forty days, when they were free from infection. Other things were kept in salt water for forty-eight hours, and short-haired animals were made to swim ashore.
On November 20, Howard was set free, his health having suffered from the lack of air and exercise, and from anxiety about his son, whom he had left in England. However, he still continued his tour of inspection, and it was not till February 1787 that he reached home. After a short time given to his own affairs, in making the best arrangements that he could for his son, now completely out of his mind, he was soon busily employed in putting a stop very vigorously to the erection of a statue to his honour. The subscriptions to it had been large, for everybody felt how much the country owed to his unwearied efforts in the cause of his fellow-men, carried out entirely at his own cost. But Howard would not listen to them for one moment.
'The execution of your design would be a cruel punishment to me,' he says in a letter to the subscribers. 'I shall always think the reform now going on in several of the gaols of this kingdom, which I hope will become general, the greatest honour and most ample reward I can possibly receive.'
It was Howard who was right, and his friends who were wrong, for though after his death they would no longer be denied, it is not the picture of the statue in St. Paul's which rises before us at the name of John Howard, but that of the prison cell.
If we could go back more than three thousand years, and be present at one of the banquets of Egypt or of the great kingdoms of the East, we should be struck by the wonderful colour which blazed in some of the hangings on the walls, and in the dresses of the guests; and if, coveting the same beautiful colour for our own homes, we asked where it came from, the answer would be that it was the famous Tyrian purple, made at the prosperous town of Tyre, off the coast of Palestine, inhabited by the Phoenician race.
* * * * *
The Phoenicians were celebrated traders and sent their goods all over the world. Ships took them to the mouth of the Nile, to the islands in the Cornish sea, to the flourishing cities of Crete almost as civilised as our own; while caravans of camels bore Phoenician wares across the desert to the Euphrates and the Tigris, most likely even to India itself. Soon the Phoenicians began to plant colonies which, like Tyre their mother, grew rich and beautiful, and far along the north African coast—so runs the old story—the lady Dido founded the city of Carthage, whose marble temples, theatres, and places of assembly were by and by to vie with those of Tyre itself.
But before these were yet completed, a wanderer, tall and strong and sun-burned, towering nearly a head over the small Phoenician people, landed on the coast and was brought before the queen, as Dido was now called.
His name, he said, was AEneas, and he had spent many years in fighting before the walls of Troy for the sake of Helen, whom he thought the loveliest woman in the world, till he had looked on Dido the queen. After the war was ended he had travelled westwards, and truly strange were the scenes on which his eyes had rested since he had crossed the seas.
Dido listened, and as she had talked with many traders from all countries she understood somewhat of his speech, and bade him stay awhile and behold the wonders of the city she was building. So AEneas stayed, and the heart of the queen went out to him; but as the days passed by he tired of rich food and baths made sweet with perfumes, and longed for wild hills and the flocks driven by the shepherds. Then one morning he sailed away, and Dido saw his face no more; and in her grief she ordered a tall pyre to be reared of logs of sandalwood and cedar. When all was prepared she came forth with a golden circlet round her head, and a robe of scarlet falling to her feet, till men marvelled at her fairness, and laid herself down on the top of the pyre.
'I am ready,' she said to the chief of her slaves, who stood by, and a lighted torch was placed against the pile, and the flames rose high.
In this manner Dido perished, but her name was kept green in her city to the end.
But though Dido was dead, her city of Carthage went on growing, and conquering, and planting colonies, in Sicily, Spain, and Sardinia. Not that the Carthaginians themselves, though a fierce and cruel people, cared about forming an empire, but they loved riches, and to protect their trade from other nations it was needful to have strong fleets and armies. For some time the various Greek states were her most powerful enemies; but in the third century before Christ signs appeared to those with eyes to read them that a war between Carthage and Rome was at hand.
Now it must never be forgotten for a moment that neither then, nor for over two thousand years later, was there any such thing as Italy, as we understand it.
The southern part of the peninsula was called 'Greater Greece,' and filled, as we have said, by colonies from different Greek towns. In the northern parts, about the river Po, tribes from Gaul had settled themselves, and in the centre were various cities peopled by strange races, who for long joined themselves into a league to resist the power of Rome. But by the third century B.C. the Roman empire, which was afterwards to swallow up the whole of the civilised world from the straits of Gibraltar to the deserts of Asia, had started on its career; the league had been broken up, the Gauls and Greeks had been driven back, and the whole of Italy south of the river Rubicon paid tribute to the City of the Seven Hills on the Tiber.
* * * * *
Having made herself secure in Italy, Rome next began to watch with anxious eyes the proceedings of Carthage in Spain and in Sicily. The struggle for lordship was bound to come, and to come soon. As to her army, Rome feared nothing, but it was quite clear that to gain the victory over Carthage she must have a fleet, and few things are more striking in the great war than the determination with which Rome, never a nation of sailors, again and again fitted out vessels, and when they were destroyed or sunk gave orders to build more. And at last she had her reward, and the tall galleys, with high carved prows and five banks of oars, beat the ships which had been hitherto thought invincible.
* * * * *
It was in 263 B.C. that the war at last broke out in Sicily, and after gaining victories both by land and sea, Rome in the eighth year of the contest sent an army to Africa, under the consuls Regulus and Volso, with orders to besiege Carthage. The invading army consisted of forty thousand men, and was joined as soon as it touched the African shore by some tributary towns, and also by twenty thousand slaves—for Carthage was hated by all who came under her rule because of her savage cruelty. At the news of the invasion the people seemed turned into stone. Then envoys were sent to beg for peace, peace at any price, at the cost of any humiliation. But the consuls would listen to nothing, and Carthage would have fallen completely into her enemy's hands had the Romans marched to the gates. But at this moment an order arrived from the Roman senate, bidding Volso with twenty-four thousand men return at once, leaving Regulus with only sixteen thousand. With exceeding folly Regulus left the strongly fortified camp, which in Roman warfare formed one of the chief defences, and arrayed his forces in the open plain. There Carthage, driven to bay, gave him battle with her hastily collected forces. The Carthaginians, commanded by Xanthippus, a better general than Regulus, won the day, and only two thousand Romans escaped slaughter. The victory gave heart to the men of Carthage, and when news came from Sicily that Rome had been driven back and her fleets destroyed, their joy knew no bounds. In her turn Rome might have lain at the feet of the conqueror, but Carthage had no army strong enough to act in a foreign land, and contented herself with destroying during the war seven hundred five-banked Roman ships, which were every time replaced with amazing swiftness.
* * * * *
The war had raged for sixteen years when Hamilcar Barca, father of the most famous general before Caesar (except Alexander the Great), was given command over land and sea. He was a young man, not more than thirty, and belonged to one of the oldest families in Carthage. Unlike most of his nation, he valued many things more highly than money, and despised the glitter and show and luxury in which all the Carthaginians delighted. A boy of fourteen when the first Punic war began (for this is its name in history), his strongest passion was hatred of Rome and a burning desire to humble the power which had defied his own beloved city. It did not matter to Hamilcar that his ships were few and his soldiers undisciplined. The great point was that he had absolute power over them, and as to their training he would undertake that himself.
So, full of hope he began his work, and in course of time, after hard labour, his raw troops became a fine army.
Hamilcar's first campaign in Sicily—so often the battleground of ancient Europe—was crowned with success. The Romans were hemmed in by his skilful strategy, and if he had only been given a proper number of ships it would have been easy for him to have landed in Italy, and perhaps marched to Rome. But now, as ever in the three Punic wars, Carthage, absorbed in counting her money and reckoning her gains and losses, could never understand where her real interest lay. She waited until Rome, by a supreme effort, built another fleet of two hundred vessels, which suddenly appeared on the west coast of Sicily, and gave battle to the Carthaginian ships when, too late, they came to the help of their general. The battle was lost, the fleet destroyed, and Hamilcar with wrath in his soul was obliged to make peace. Sicily, which Carthage had held for four hundred years, was ceded to Rome, and large sums of money paid into her treasury for the expenses of the war.