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Æ Firestone's Crimea: Chapter 8

                                            Nightingale receiving the Wounded at Scutari by Jerry Barrett


October 1854, 

inside a nice apartment of 49 Belgrave Square in the city of London.


"Lord Herbert, Ms. Nightingale is here." 

said a butler.


His master,  Sidney Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Lea, 

acknowledged and allowed Ms. Nightingale in the living room.


An Englishwoman named Ms. Florence Nightingale came inside Mr. Herbert's living room. She was a tall, willowy figure, with thick shortish rich brown hair, a delicate complexion, and grey eyes that are generally pensive but could be the merriest. She was in her early thirties, wearing a dark Victorian style gown with white lace accents. She was attractive, slender, and graceful, she was said to be very charming and possess a radiant smile, but sometimes her demeanour was also often severe.


Nightingale came from a wealthy humanitarian and classical liberal family she mostly inherited. She was an intelligent young woman that studied history, philosophy, and especially mathematics.


As she was attractive, many men fell in love with her, but she often rejects them because she wanted to pursue her career in medicine and as a professional nurse, which her parents greatly opposed. That was her lifelong life dream as she believed she called to God to help others in need.


William Howard Russell, a reporter of the British newspaper, The Times, reported that British soldiers began going down with cholera and malaria. Within a few weeks, an estimated 8,000 men were suffering from these two diseases. After Nightingale read these accounts, she volunteered herself to go down there to help the wounded and sick soldiers from the war. 


Nightingale was close friends to 

Sidney Herbert and was her ally. 

He was the British Secretary of War, 

he is responsible for the War Office

of the British government 

and has military authority.


She approached Mr. Herbert and spoke to him.


"Mr. Herbert, I have interviewed 128 women

out of which I have managed to find 

only 14 who are reasonably suitable.

I shall now approach the religious institutions."


"Oh, you will find them; 

I don't doubt that.

Come and sit down while I tell

you some of the arrangements."


Ms. Nightingale and Mr. Hebert both sat down 

in chairs across from each other.


Ms. Nightingale asked.


"When do we leave for Constantinople?"


"In a few days..."


 Mr. Herbert replied.


"...and I've asked Mr. and Mrs. Bracebridge

to accompany you if you agree."


Nightingale replied with a smile on her face.


"Oh my, I do indeed, 

Salina will be of great assistance to me"


"And don't worry about the finances,

Charles has already taken care of that for your trip.

You will go on by train Boulogne to Marseilles,

where you'll spend two or three days 

before going on board the Vectis."


"Excellent..."


She replied with a smile on her face.


"...this will give me an opportunity

for purchasing our necessary equipment

and medical supplies."


"I sometimes see you have 

little faith in our government," 

said Mr. Herbert.


"I only have faith

in one member of it." Said Nightingale.


Mr. Herbert replied with a smile, 

feeling appreciated.


"And I thank you. 

I will do my utmost to support you from London.

But sending women to the seat of war is quite unorthodox, 

and there are voices out there that are highly against it."


Nightingale felt concerned with the controversy.


"And I'm afraid so, even my own parents

said I shouldn't be a nurse."


"Ms. Nightingale, myself have no doubt

whatsoever as to your ultimate success.

I do have faith in you."


She felt very thankful that Mr. Hebert 

is very supportive of her beliefs. 

It was a blessing to have

a person like Herbert on her side.


"Thank you,

My success does not matter but,

if your plan succeeds, Mr. Herbert,

we shall have broken down

such a wall of prejudice

that will multiply the good for all time."


"I quite agree, 

Ms. Nightingale, 

quite agree indeed.

I've written to Lord Stratford,

our Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire,

and Dr. Menzies, the chief medical officer

of the Scutari Hospital, about your upcoming arrival.


Is there anything

else you wish to discuss?"


Ms. Nightingale thought about anything else 

that could be important to her trip, but she said no.


The two got up from their chairs,

and Ms. Nightgale was preparing to leave.

Mr. Herbert asked the lady.


"You will write

to me from Scutari?"


"Yes, I shall write officially and privately.

And shall keep nothing from you, good nor bad."


"In our dealings with

people Ms. Florence,

you have the great advantage

of being unemotional."


Ms. Nightingale thought his comment 

was kind of hysterical and unbelievable.


"Oh, make no mistake, Mr. Herbert.

I have all the emotions of a woman,

but if I have learned anything

so far, it is how to control them."


As she was closer to leave, 

she wanted to say her last words to him.


"Well, this is where I say goodbye."


Mr. Herbet replied.


"Goodbye, God bless you, Florence...


And finally, as a respectful gentleman, 

he took her hand and kissed on the palm 

as a sign of politeness, courtesy, and respect.


"...Godspeed your journey."


"Goodbye, Sidney.

I shall rely on you always."


The two knew each other for many years, but nothing romantic, 

and they've always been friends and nothing more.


As Mr. Herbert kindly escorted Ms. Nightingale down the hall,

Mr. Herbert's wife, Elizabeth, opened the front door and came inside with two other people. 


"Sidney, dear, Mr. and Mrs. Bracebridge are here," said Mrs. Herbert.


Mr. Charles Bracebridge and Mrs. Selina Bracebridge were with Mrs. Herbert. 

The couple has been very close friends to Ms. Nightingale for many years 

despite being twenty years apart. 


It's not the first time the couple traveled abroad with Nightingale, 

as the three of them visited places as far as the great coliseum of Rome, 

the ancient temples of Greece and the amazing pyramids of Egypt.


They both smiled and were very happy to see her again, 

Ms. Bracebridge hugged her while Mr. Bracebridge shook her hand.


"Salina, Charles, it's so good to see you both again, 

and it is such a comfort to know that you will be with me along the way."

Said Ms. Nightingale.


"Florence, dear, we're delighted

aren't we, Charles?" said Ms. Bracebridge.


 Mr. Bracebridge replied.


"Yes indeed. I know Constantinople very well;

you'll need an exceptional person like me to take care 

of 38 ladies, eh, Sidney?"


Everyone laughed, and Mr. Herbert replied.


"You'll make a terrific chaperone, Charles. "

                                        Florence Nightingale with Charles Holte Bracebridge and Selina



Ms. Nightingale and her party 

were on board the Vectis, a steam-powered vessel 

and they traveled across the Mediterranean, 

but the voyage was rough. 

The galley of the ship was torn off 

and things had to be jettisoned 

during the terrible rough seas

to make the trip more at ease.


Every one of the party suffered terrible seasickness 

and never came up topside as they were not 

used to the shakey boat with long rough waves.


On the fourth day of the eleventh month

of the one thousand filthy fourth year.

They've arrived at Constantinople through

the Sea of Marmara to the strait of Bosporus

where they've landed in the Scutari district.


Constantinople is the capital and the heart of the Ottoman empire

and it's the only way to connect the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.


The city was beautiful and exotic at the same time, 

mostly occupied by a group of people called the Turks,

browned-skinned people with black hair and dark eyes originally 

from central Asia, believing in a religion many Europeans consider strange.


Nightingale's party was headed for the Scutari hospital, 

originally built by the Ottomans as a military barracks 

decades ago, until it was converted into a 

British military hospital for the war.

It is a gigantic rectangle building

with a large parade ground in the center. 

The structure has three floors on three wings

and two floors only on the eastern wing due to inclined terrain.


Inside was the office of the chief medical officer, Dr. Menzies, 

he was with other high-ranking men smoking and chit-chatting to one another.


"I hear Miss Nightingale is a highfalutin society woman." 

said an officer smoking his pipe.


"Oh, that politician, Mr. Sidney Herbert 

is responsible for this novel idea.

Our government has done some deuced

silly things over the years but parliament

sending 40 women to this hospital is quite the silliest.

No wonder parliament is a joke."


Every man in the room agreed with the doctor except one man, 

a young low-ranking medical doctor spoke out against the chief doctor.


"For God's sake, give them a chance sir.

If they can make this bloody place any less

of a hell than it is, it might be better for all of us.


The men are dying down there 

and I can't take any longer!


The young fellow knew he was out of place

and quietly said.


"My apologies, forgive me, sir."


The young officer exit Dr. Menzies' office

straight out to the door, frustrated and depressed.


"Dr. Wilkinson's losing his nerve.

I shall have to send that young fellow back 

home if he can't take it anymore."

said Dr. Menzies.


"It might suit us better, sir, 

if you send Miss Nightingale

and the rest of them back home. 

You know how aggravating women are."

said another officer in a smart-aleck manner.


"For all of you lads who think a woman's place is in the kitchen, 

remember that's where the knives are kept." said another officer, 

but they all stopped laughing 'til they realized the context

of his humorous comment.


"Don't remind us," said Dr. Menzies.


A British guard arrived at his office.


"Yes?" Menzies asked.


"A lady by the name of Nightingale 

is here to see you, sir".


"Let let her in..." Menzies replied.


Dr. Menzies also said to his men.


"...Thank you, gentlemen, we shall talk later." 


All of the men left his office 

and then Ms. Nightingale finally arrived.


"Dr. Menzies? I am Ms. Nightingale," she said.


"At your service, Madame, 

welcome to the Scutari Hospital..." Menzies kindly-replied.


He continued.

"...I feel that your presence here

and that of your ladies will surely

bring great comfort to our men,

Ms. Nightingale.


Would like to retire

to your quarters and 

sleep to get a good night's rest?

I'm sure you're tired from 

your very long voyage."


Dr. Menzies was kind-of asistent.


"Thank you, but my party 

has already gone to their quarters resting,

but if it is not inconvenient to you

I would like to take a look around the hospital

to get familiar with this place".


"I fear you will see many distressing sights, 

some are unpleasant, and it's not pretty."


"I am a nurse, Dr. Menzies, 

I've often seen many unpleasant things 

and even some were grotesque."


"Right this way, madam." 


Dr. Menzies showed Ms. Nightingale through the barracks to see the men; 

she was disturbed by the unbearable dire conditions they were in.

The place was overcrowded, many without beds and poor hygiene, 

covered in filth such as blood, dirt, and other things. 

She felt sorry for the poor them who suffered physically

and psychologically as they fought for their country honorably.


"You see, this is not exactly a hospital,

it was originally barracks for the Ottoman military 

but it's now utilized for our purpose."


"Indeed, I was already aware," Nightingale replied.


"Then I assume that you are aware that

we have male orderlies to look

after the sick and wounded

and that they attend to such things

that no lady, of course, could do." 


"I assure you, Dr. Menzies

that among my women, there

are no ladies in your context."


Ms. Nightingale and Dr. Menzies both continued to explore the hospital.

The place is desperately needed to be reformed and cleaned.

Nightingale can feel the stale and dry air through the halls,

as there is a lack of ventilation in the facility.


And finally, they've reached the main hall where they come from, 

completing a full circle within the premises.


"We'll Miss Nightingale I told you would see 

some very distressing sights".


"And indeed you did, Dr. Menzies, 

But I hope our presence may alleviate 

some of the suffering of these poor men."


"I'm sure your nurses will do quite 

resourceful work attending to them."


"I am under your orders Doctor,

so when you need us,

my nurses are ready to help

at your service."


"Well, when I need them I will send

for them Miss Nightingale."


Dr. Menzies looked at his pocket watch 

for the time and said.

"I have to go, will you excuse me."


When Dr. Menzies left the hallway,

Ms. Nightingale had high doubts that 

he believed in her or her nurses.

She wanted to show the potential value 

of what the female nurses can do 

in a military hospital.


She hopes that he'll have a change of heart.


                               Hospital and Cemetery at Scutari by William Simpson & Johnathan Needham



While Ms. Nightingale was arranging things,

the nurses were with Mrs. and Mr. Bracebridge

on an important assembly.


"News has just come through

that another battle has been 

fought from Inkerman,

so expect many of our 

wounded men to arrive,

there'll be plenty of

work for willing hands for you to do.


But I want all of you to remember

one very important thing,

discipline. 


Discipline is the key to self-control and a

good foundation of being selective, 

independent, punctual, focused, and organized.

Discipline creates habits, 

habits make routines, 

and routines become who you are daily.

This is important for your responsibility as a nurse.


You're under the direct

orders of Miss Nightingale,

she is the lead nurse

and every instruction you

receive, you must obey.

Now, are we quite clear?"


All the woman acknowledged 

and understood Mr. Bracebridge

and understood that they'll obey 

Ms. Nightingale's orders.


"Any questions?" asked Mr. Bracebridge.


One nurse raised her hand and asked.


"Since we are far away from home,

I suppose we're able to go

and see the exotic sights 

of Constantinople since it's only just over

the other side of the water, 

when we're off duty, of course."


"I have no doubt, Nurse Jones,

when you are off duty, you will find

in this part of the world very interesting

as there's plenty to see here."


Another nurse raised her hand and said.


"This place, it's all covered 

with rats and filth, and it smells."


"That is not a question; that is a statement.

And I suggest you get used to it, Nurse Grundy."


Ms. Nightingale came to the room to join the assembly.


A young nurse, Nurse Kelly, said to Ms. Nightingale.


"Mr. Bracebridge says that the 

wounded are arriving soon from Inkerman."


"I know you ladies must be anxious to get to work,

but you all must understand that until I receive

orders from Dr. Menzies, we must occupy 

ourselves with work other than nursing the sick and wounded.


"But, our men need our services, Miss Nightingale,

Surely that is our first duty; that's why we're here?"


"You will get your chance, Sister, 

but you must obey my orders."


"Yes, ma'am," said Nurse Kelly 

with a disappointed face.


"For the next few days

we shall be scrubbing floors

and doing other chores.

It will keep us occupied,

'til we receive our orders."


For the next few days, the nurses and sisters of  Nightingale's company 

were doing duties of chores that had nothing to do with the soldiers

as they cannot even do anything in their power until Dr. Menzies says so.

It frustrated the woman as they helplessly can do nothing for these poor souls.


Ms. Nightingale was at her office writing paperwork 

'til a young doctor of eighteen years of age came inside unexpected.


"Ms. Nightingale," he said.


"Yes, can I help you, good sir?" Nightingale replied.


"My apologies, ma'am, I'm Dr. Wilkinson

I must apologize for my intrusion 

but I have several men down with typhus

and I can't handle them all unless I have your help.

May I please borrow some fellow nurses? "


"If you have Dr. Menzies' 

permission, then yes.

If not, I cannot lend them to you."


"He won't allow it; the old man is 

stubborn as a mule."


"Dr. Wilkinson, what do the

other doctors feel?"


"Ridiculous. And believe me the 

other doctors want your help

just as bad as me."


"Then why do they not ask for it?"


"It is impossible to make demands

to a superior officer here, 

especially an ignorant one.

Dr. Menzies isn't giving you ladies a chance

to prove your worth 

because you're simply a woman 

and believes it should be a man's job."


"There are things in the western canon woman cannot do, 

but there are some things they can 

and are capable of doing them well with great reputation.


Instead of wishing to see more doctors made by women 

joining what there are, I wish to see as few doctors, 

either male or female, as possible. For, mark you, 

the women have made no improvement,

they have only tried to be men 

and they have only succeeded in being third-rate men.


We don't want to be like men, 

we want to be women to take care of our men.


We can't help unless Dr. Menzies sends for us.

I am sorry, Dr. Wilkinson.

There's nothing else in 

my power that I can do, but pray."



"Prayers may not be enough."


The frustrated doctor left the room and

Nightingale felt very bad for the situation,

wishing there was something she could do.


She went down to observed the wards.

She witnessed an amputation of one poor man's leg, 

crying in agony and pain from the bloody saw. 

Florence felt disturbed by the horrible scene and 

she went to her quarters alone by herself.


She spoke in private to herself like a monologue.


"What the horrors of war are, no one can imagine

they are not wounds and blood and fever, spotted and low, 

or dysentery, chronic and acute, cold and heat and famine

they are intoxication, drunken brutality, 

demoralization and disorder on the part of the inferior, 

jealousies, meanness, indifference, selfish brutality 

on the part of the superior.


No man, not even a doctor, ever gives any other definition 

of what a nurse should be than this 'devoted and obedient.' 

This definition would do just as well for a porter. 

It might even do for a horse but would not do for a policeman.


How very little can be done, under the spirit of fear."


She went to the side of her bed on her knees 

and prayed to her God for those suffering wounded men.


Florence Nightingale, frustrated and anxious 

came inside Dr. Menzies's office as he 

was going through correspondent letters.


"Dr. Menzies, I would have not necessary forced myself

to bother you like this, if were it not for the fact

that I have seen with my own two grey eyes, 

that your men are bleeding to death 

for want of the most elementary attention

which my nurses could give them."


"Oh, Ms. Nightigale, please!" said the aggravated Dr. Menzies.


"But, it's over four days, 

since my party and I have arrived

and it was that we should've nursed the sick and wounded

and not just act as kitchen maids."


Dr. Menzies replied.


"As I said, your ladies are doing

quite resourceful work Miss Nightingale,

making some use out of them. 

Wouldn't you say?"


"They are not doing the work 

they originally came here to do.


We are, we are trying to clean up

some of the indescribable filth of this hospital 

especially the lack of sanitation 

and the stale air from poor ventilation

but beyond that, we are doing absolutely nothing.

And your very own doctors have been begging us for our help!


This is inhumane!"


"Inhumane? I assure you, Madame, 

the soldiers would be embarrassed

if your ladies undertook such personal duties.


And as I have already told you, miss, 

we have orderlies to tend

to the wants of the men."


"We'll Dr. Menzies, 

these so-called 'ladies' are experienced nurses,

and I prefer you call them that.

They will undertake any duty,

no matter how unpleasant or grotesque.

They're brave enough."


Dr. Menzies was tone-death and 

was worrying more about the mail than her.


While you're are reading your correspondents,

your men are dying in their hundreds.

Blood is on your hands."


After that, Ms. Nightingale left Dr. Menzies' office;

and he was glad that the woman left

as he was getting aggravated by her

even though he knew she was right.


                                           View of Constantinople and the Bosphorus by Ivan Aivazovsky 


Just across the water of the Bosporus Strait 

from Scutari was the city of Constantinople.

The heart and capital of the Ottoman Empire,

it was originally the city of the Byzantine Empire

until the Muslim conquest of the Turks.

Then they later conquered the Middle East, 

North Africa, Egypt, Greece, and many parts of Europe.


The nation was huge and diverse, with 

many groups of peoples but the Turks 

are the dominant people of the Empire 

and ruled everyone else.


As the Greeks hated the Turks, 

the Turks hated the Kurds, 

the Kurds hate the Assyrians.

The Assyrians hated the Arabs

The Arabs hated the Turks.

The Turks hated everyone.


It was impossible for everyone to get along 

as a diverse nation, it was an endless cycle of ethnic, 

religious, and cultural conflicts and often repeats 

itself because that was the natural nature of Humanity.


              The Slave Market by Jean-Léon Gérôme


But since the nineteenth century, they have been in decline 

as they were no longer as powerful as they used to be. 

Not only because the British and French Empires have been growing 

major powers with the economy, military, and territorial power

but the growing revolts and revolutions 

from the non-Turks within the empire.


At Constantinople was the Topkapı Palace, 

the home of the Sultan, the monarch of the empire,

and it was the main administrative center.


There was a party at the palace,

it was mostly full of high ranking military officers in uniform

eating, drinking, smoking tobacco through a long water pipe 

called a hookah, they were chatting to one another about 

the war, life, and women.


There were some dancers and music to entertain the men, 

and there were some non-Turkish slaves serving food 

doing their master's bidding.


There was one salve, an 11-year-old Caucasian boy 

with smooth dirty blond hair and blue eyes

wearing his slave clothes carrying a serving tray 

of drinks for the party members.


He walked toward one of the uniformed men 

but didn't look the man in the eye.

The Turkish man had a full black beard, a thick fancy mustache, 

dark brown eyes and bushy eyebrows, 

his uniform was decorative red 

and he was wearing a short cylindrical 

peakless hat called a fez with a tassel attached to the top.

He was also wearing a badge representing his rank of captain,

it was a crescent moon facing the left side 

with a nine-point star beside it.


The boy spoke to him.


"More drinks, usta ?"


"Hiç, thanks but no thanks."


                                                           Dancing in the Harem Courtyard by Fabio Fabbi


He purposely bumped into the boy on the shoulder, 

and almost made him spill the drinks. 

The boy felt miserable and depressed 

through his eyes like he hated his life.


The uniformed man walked to one 

of the naval commanders named Admiral Öztürk.


"Commander Attar." said the Admiral.


"Admiral Öztürk". Attar replied.


"Who's the boy?"


They both observed the slave boy

serving drinks to the other men.


 "Beyaz çocuk." Attar replied.


"Aw, he must have been very expensive, 

Caucasians aren't cheap."


"I inherited him by my father since he passed away, 

and I've never liked him ever since."


Even though the Sultan signed a decree in October

to free all Caucasians from slavery, 

it was not widely enforced.


"What's on your mind Attar?" asked Öztürk.


"I would like to be transferred to

Eupatoria for the war effort."


"I see your urge for war admires you.

Your one of the most talented

individuals in the Ottoman Military.

I can see what Omar Pasha can do for you 

and make the transfer possible."


"Thank you; it will be my pleasure." 


"Our Empire is crumbling, 

Insurrections are growing

It will be a great loss and shame,

we shall not lose it in vain."


"I'm no errand boy. 

And I'm not in this war for politics!

I'm a leader of the most powerful military the world has ever seen. 

This is why Turkey needs me!"


                                                          The Tortoise Trainer by Osman Hamdi Bey



Hours later, after the party, at Attar's residence, 

he was not in uniform

but in casual red Turkish clothes 

with his favorite fez on his head.


He holds a traditional ney flute 

and bears a nakkare drum on his back, 

with a drumstick handing to his front.


Attar was observing the floor as has been

attempting to "train" the five tortoises at his feet, 

but they are ignoring him, preferring instead 

to eat the green leaves on the floor.


"Why won't the rocks obey me?"


"The healing of the hearts is meeting with the beloved," 

Beyaz said himself.


Attar smacked the boy on the 

back of the head with a hard blow.


"Ow!" the boy yelled.


"Who's said you could speak?

You're lucky I've never cut your tongue out."


The boy stayed silent, and Attar called 

for his two other slaves, Zahoor and Damu,

two African men in their late twenties from Niger, 

acting as his personal bodyguards. 

Their skin was black as coal,

their eyes were dark as night,

and their heads were shaved bald 

because they didn't want to deal with their 

hair since their traits is very different from the other races.


Beyaz never liked Zahoor and Damu,

because of their strange unethical behavior towards him,

they like to tease, pick on him whenever Attar is never around,

bulling him and calling him names and slurs.

It aggravated and depressed the boy even more than Attar's abuse.

One thing that made him uncomfortable was their strange odour,

which is natural for their race, but the boy couldn't stand the smell.


"Yes, master?" said Damu.


"We're moving to the Crimea in a few days.

I want you two to get my things ready,

we're leaving soon."


"It shall be done," Damu replied.


Attar was about to leave his home out the door

with his uniform on, and he said to his three servants.


"I'll be back; I have some errands to run.

You triplets behave."


Attar closed the door on his way out,

then as soon as possible, Zahoor and Damu

both spit and laughed at Beyaz

and ran upstairs like spoiled children.


The boy had tears in his eyes,

wishing he wasn't born,

that is the moment he cries.



To be Continued...


©2021 Æ Firestone


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