Lady With a Lamp
by Marina J. Neary
Florence is standing in the spotlight, smiling mischievously and pressing Grant’s notebook to her chest.
FLORENCE: My marriage to Thomas Grant, which lasted for ten days, never made history. Having taunted us about it, Lord Lucan never mentioned it again. He did not even keep his promise to attend Tom’s funeral.
Early in 1855, Lucan was dispatched back to England in disgrace, to the great pleasure of his brother-in-law, who received a hero’s welcome. As much as I begrudged Cardigan his fame, I knew it was only a matter of time before the public would learn the truth about his incompetence. There is nothing more entertaining and gratifying than to see hollow braggarts dethroned.
And I had my share of laurel garlands waiting for me in England. What saved me from this atrocious public veneration was a nasty case of Maltese fever which forced me to quarantine myself in a hotel room for several months. By the time I was well enough to re-enter the world and resume my work, the madness had settled. And who would greet me at the entrance but Sidney Herbert! Until the end of his days he remained my advocate, my patron, my platonic lover.
Thousands of patients have gone through my hands — and thousands more were destined to. Five years after the Crimean campaign, I published a handbook under the most mundane, unimaginative title Notes on Nursing. Pity, I had to leave out some astute observations and theories. My audience would not reconcile them with the image of the Lady with the Lamp.
I still believe that some epidemics come in the form of fellow humans. This is why I did what my husband did not have the heart to do. For now, with a worn-out heart, I stand at the Altar of the murdered men, and while I live, I fight their cause.
Copyright © 2011 by Marina J. Neary