When Florence Nightingale was a very little girl, everyone noticed how kind she was to other people and to animals. Every person and every animal in the village loved her. She made friends with even the shy squirrels.
Near the village in England in which she had her home, there lived an old shepherd named Roger. Roger had a favorite sheep dog called Captain. One day when Florence was riding with a friend, she saw the shepherd feeding his sheep. But Captain was not there to help him, and the sheep were running about in all directions. Florence stopped to ask the shepherd what had become of his dog.
“Oh, Miss Florence,” he replied, “Cap will never be of any more use to me. He will have to be killed.”
“Killed!” Florence exclaimed. “Oh, Roger, how can you say so? What has poor Cap done?”
“He has done nothing,” replied Roger; “but a cruel boy threw a stone at him yesterday and broke one of his legs.” And the old shepherd wiped away the tears that filled his eyes. “Poor Cap!” he said, “he was as knowing as a human being.”
Florence and her friend rode on to the shepherd’s cottage. They went in to see the poor dog.
“Poor old Cap!” said Florence gently.
The dog began to wag his tail. Then he crawled from under the table and lay down at her feet. She took hold of one of his paws, patted his rough head, and talked to him while she examined the injured leg.
It was very badly swollen, and it hurt him much to have it touched. But though he moaned with pain, he licked the hands that were hurting him, for he knew that it was meant kindly.
“It’s only a bad bruise. There are no bones broken,” said Florence. “Rest is all Cap needs. He will soon be well again. Plenty of hot water to bathe his leg will ease the pain and help to cure him too.”
Florence lighted the fire, got ready some hot water, and began to bathe the poor dog’s leg. It was not long before he began to feel less pain. The grateful dog tried to show his thanks by his looks and by wagging his tail.
On their way back they met the old shepherd coming slowly homeward.
“Oh, Roger!” cried Florence, “You are not going to lose poor old Cap. We have found that his leg is not broken after all.”
“Well, I am very glad to hear it,” said the old man; “and many thanks to you, Miss Florence, for going to see him.”
The next morning, Florence was there early to bathe Cap’s leg. She found it much better. The next day, she bathed it again, and in two or three days, the old dog was able as before to go with his master and to look after the flock.
This happened many years ago, and that kindhearted little girl grew up to be one of the kindest and bravest of women. She spent her youth in learning how to nurse the sick and how to manage hospitals.
During the Crimean War, the wounded soldiers were very badly off for want of proper care and good hospitals. Florence Nightingale took a band of trained nurses and went away to take care of them. At that time she wrote, “We have four miles of beds not eighteen inches apart. Tomorrow five hundred more wounded men are coming.”
It was not long before she could hardly find time for rest or sleep and once, her hard work made her very ill.
After the war was over and the hospitals all closed, and the last sick soldier was on board the train for home, Florence Nightingale quietly returned to her home in England. She wanted to avoid the public demonstrations of the people, so even her own family were not expecting her. The people were disappointed, but they said, “None but the truly great could be so meek and unassuming.”
But they could not let her heroic work pass without some expression of their appreciation. So a purse of fifty thousand pounds, or about two hundred fifty thousand dollars, was gathered and presented to her. She was deeply touched.
“I shall treasure your kind thought in my heart forever,” she said, “but I do not need the money. Please use it to build a training school for nurses.”
With this money, “The Nightingale Home” was built. In it is a beautiful statue of Florence Nightingale. She wears her simple nurse’s dress and carries in her hand a tiny lamp, just as she used to do in the hospitals. This is why she has been called “The Lady With the Lamp.”
After that, Florence Nightingale did a great deal to improve English hospitals. Her whole life was spent helping the sick, and especially those who were poor.
True Education Series, Goals, 43–46.