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176

THE CRIMEAN WAR

irresistible authority of them. And they were spoken quietly indeed.

Late at night, when the long miles of beds lay wrapped in darkness, Miss Nightingale would sit at work in her little room, over her correspondence. It was one of the most formidable of all her duties. There were hundreds of letters to be written to the friends and relations of soldiers; there was the enormous mass of official documents to be dealt with; there were her own private letters to be answered; and,, most important of all, there was the composition of her long and confidential reports to Sidney Herbert. These were by no means official Communications. Her soul, pent up all day in the restraint and reserve of a vast responsibility, now at last poured itself out in these letters with all its natural vehemence, like a swollen torrent through an open sluice. Here, at least, she did not mince matters1). Here she painted in her darkest colours the hideous scènes which surrounded her; here she tore away remorselessly the last veils still shrouding the abominable truth. Then she would fill pages with recommendations and suggestions, with criticisms of the minutest details of organisation, with elaborate calculations of contingencies,-with exhaustive analyses and statistical statements piled up in breathless eagerness one on the top of the other. And then her pen, in the virulence2) of its volubility *), would rush on to the discussion of individuals, to the denunciation of an incompetent surgeon or the ridicule of a self-sufficient nurse. Her sarcasm searched the ranks of the officials with the deadly and unsparing precision of a machine-

1. to mince: to cut very small (e. g. meat); hence in a figurative sense to mince matters: to express one's disapproval in mild words, so as not to offend or hurt.

2. virulence: see p. 15 note 1.

3. volubility [voljütilïtï]: fluency (usually applied to speech).

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