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MISS NIGHTINGALE

169

Her position was, indeed, an official one, but it was hardly the easier for that. In the hospitals it was her duty to provide the services of herself and her nurses when they were asked for by the doctors, and not until then. At first some of the surgeons would have nothing to say to her, and, though she was welcomed by others, the majority were hostile and suspicious. But gradually she gained ground. Her good will could not be denied, and her capacity could not be disregarded. With consummate tact, with all the gentleness of suprème strength, she managed at last to impose her personality upon the susceptible.1), overwrought, discouraged, and helpless group of men in authority who surrounded her. She stood firm; she was a rock in the angry ocean; with her alone wassafety, comfort, life. And so it was that hope dawned at Scutari. The reign of chaos and old night began to dwindle; order came upon the scène, and common sense, and forethought, and decision, radiating out from the little room off the great gallery in the Barrack Hospital where, day and night, the -Lady Superintendent was at her task. Progress might be slow, but it was sure. The first sign of a great change came with the appearance of some of those necessary objects with which the hospitals had been unprovided for months. The sick men began to enjoy the use of towels and soap, knives and forks, combs and tooth-brushes. Dr. Hall might snort when he heard of it, asking with a growl, what a soldier wanted with a tooth-brush; but the good work went on. Eventually the whole business of purveying to the hospitals2) was, in effect, carried out by Miss Nightingale. She alone, it seemed, whatever the contingency 8), knew where

1. susceptible: sensitive, impressionable.

2. to purvey: to supply articles of food, clothes, or anything wanted. Shopkeepers are allowed to call themselves 'Purveyor to His Majesty The King', and announce this in their advertisements.

3. contingency: things or drcumstances that may occur. See p. 35, note 3.

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