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Title: Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands
Author: Seacole, Mary
Language: English
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              IN MANY LANDS

             EDITED BY W. J. S.



            W. H. RUSSELL, ESQ.,










                      MARY SEACOLE.


I should have thought that no preface would have been required to
introduce Mrs. Seacole to the British public, or to recommend a book
which must, from the circumstances in which the subject of it was
placed, be unique in literature.

If singleness of heart, true charity, and Christian works; if trials
and sufferings, dangers and perils, encountered boldly by a helpless
woman on her errand of mercy in the camp and in the battle-field, can
excite sympathy or move curiosity, Mary Seacole will have many friends
and many readers.

She is no Anna Comnena, who presents us with a verbose history, but a
plain truth-speaking woman, who has lived an adventurous life amid
scenes which have never yet found a historian among the actors on the
stage where they passed.

I have witnessed her devotion and her courage; I have already borne
testimony to her services to all who needed them. She is the first who
has redeemed the name of "sutler" from the suspicion of worthlessness,
mercenary baseness, and plunder; and I trust that England will not
forget one who nursed her sick, who sought out her wounded to aid and
succour them, and who performed the last offices for some of her
illustrious dead.

    W. H. RUSSELL.



 My Birth and Parentage--Early Tastes and Travels--Marriage,
 and Widowhood                                                   1


 Struggles for Life--The Cholera in Jamaica--I leave Kingston
 for the Isthmus of Panama--Chagres, Navy Bay, and Gatun--Life
 in Panama--Up the River Chagres to Gorgona and Cruces           6


 My Reception at the Independent Hotel--A Cruces Table
 d'Hôte--Life in Cruces--Amusements of the Crowds--A Novel
 Four-post Bed                                                  17


 An Unwelcome Visitor in Cruces--The Cholera--Success of the
 Yellow Doctress--Fearful Scene at the Mule-owner's--The
 Burying Parties--The Cholera attacks me                        23


 American Sympathy--I take an Hotel in Cruces--My
 Customers--Lola Montes--Miss Hayes and the Bishop--Gambling
 in Cruces--Quarrels amongst the Travellers--New Granadan
 Military--The Thieves of Cruces--A Narrow Escape               34


 Migration to Gorgona--Farewell Dinners and Speeches--A
 Building Speculation--Life in Gorgona--Sympathy with
 American Slaves--Dr. Casey in Trouble--Floods and
 Fires--Yankee Independence and Freedom                         46


 The Yellow Fever in Jamaica--My Experience of Death-bed
 Scenes--I leave again for Navy Bay, and open a Store
 there--I am attacked with the Gold Fever, and start for
 Escribanos--Life in the Interior of the Republic of New
 Granada--A Revolutionary Conspiracy on a small scale--The
 Dinner Delicacies of Escribanos--Journey up the Palmilla
 River--A Few Words on the Present Aspect of Affairs on the
 Isthmus of Panama                                              59


 I long to join the British Army before Sebastopol--My
 Wanderings about London for that purpose--How I
 failed--Establishment of the Firm of "Day and Martin"--I
 Embark for Turkey                                              73


 Voyage to Constantinople--Malta--Gibraltar--Constantinople,
 and what I thought of it--Visit to Scutari Hospital--Miss
 Nightingale                                                    82


 "Jew Johnny"--I Start for Balaclava--Kindness of my old
 Friends--On Board the "Medora"--My Life on Shore--The
 Sick Wharf                                                     92


 Alarms in the Harbour--Getting the Stores on Shore--Robbery
 by Night and Day--The Predatory Tribes of Balaclava--Activity
 of the Authorities--We obtain leave to erect our
 Store, and fix upon Spring Hill as its Site--The Turkish
 Pacha--The Flood--Our Carpenters--I become an English
 Schoolmistress Abroad                                         102


 The British Hotel--Domestic Difficulties--Our Enemies--The
 Russian Rats--Adventures in Search of a Cat--Light-fingered
 Zouaves--Crimean Thieves--Powdering a Horse                   113


 My Work in the Crimea                                         124


 My Customers at the British Hotel                             135


 My First Glimpse of War--Advance of my Turkish Friends on
 Kamara--Visitors to the Camp--Miss Nightingale--Mons.
 Soyer and the Cholera--Summer in the Crimea--"Thirsty
 Souls"--Death busy in the Trenches                            146


 Under Fire on the fatal 18th of June--Before the
 Redan--At the Cemetery--The Armistice--Deaths at
 Head-quarters--Depression in the Camp--Plenty in the
 Crimea--The Plague of Flies--Under Fire at the Battle
 of the Tchernaya--Work on the Field--My Patients              154


 Inside Sebastopol--The Last Bombardment of Sebastopol--On
 Cathcart's Hill--Rumours in the Camp--The Attack on the
 Malakhoff--The Old Work again--A Sunday Excursion--Inside
 "Our" City--I am taken for a Spy, and thereat lose my
 Temper--I Visit the Redan, etc.--My Share of the Plunder      167


 Holiday in the Camp--A New Enemy, Time--Amusements in
 the Crimea--My share in them--Dinner at Spring Hill--At
 the Races--Christmas Day in the British Hotel--New
 Year's Day in the Hospital                                    177


 New Year in the Crimea--Good News--The Armistice--Barter
 with the Russians--War and Peace--Tidings of Peace--Excursions
 into the Interior of the Crimea--To Simpheropol,
 Baktchiserai, etc.--The Troops begin to leave the
 Crimea--Friends' Farewells--The Cemeteries--We remove
 from Spring Hill to Balaclava--Alarming Sacrifice of our
 Stock--A last Glimpse of Sebastopol--Home!                    188

 Conclusion                                                    197




I was born in the town of Kingston, in the island of Jamaica, some
time in the present century. As a female, and a widow, I may be well
excused giving the precise date of this important event. But I do not
mind confessing that the century and myself were both young together,
and that we have grown side by side into age and consequence. I am a
Creole, and have good Scotch blood coursing in my veins. My father was
a soldier, of an old Scotch family; and to him I often trace my
affection for a camp-life, and my sympathy with what I have heard my
friends call "the pomp, pride, and circumstance of glorious war." Many
people have also traced to my Scotch blood that energy and activity
which are not always found in the Creole race, and which have carried
me to so many varied scenes: and perhaps they are right. I have often
heard the term "lazy Creole" applied to my country people; but I am
sure I do not know what it is to be indolent. All my life long I have
followed the impulse which led me to be up and doing; and so far from
resting idle anywhere, I have never wanted inclination to rove, nor
will powerful enough to find a way to carry out my wishes. That these
qualities have led me into many countries, and brought me into some
strange and amusing adventures, the reader, if he or she has the
patience to get through this book, will see. Some people, indeed, have
called me quite a female Ulysses. I believe that they intended it as a
compliment; but from my experience of the Greeks, I do not consider it
a very flattering one.

It is not my intention to dwell at any length upon the recollections
of my childhood. My mother kept a boarding-house in Kingston, and was,
like very many of the Creole women, an admirable doctress; in high
repute with the officers of both services, and their wives, who were
from time to time stationed at Kingston. It was very natural that I
should inherit her tastes; and so I had from early youth a yearning
for medical knowledge and practice which has never deserted me. When I
was a very young child I was taken by an old lady, who brought me up
in her household among her own grandchildren, and who could scarcely
have shown me more kindness had I been one of them; indeed, I was so
spoiled by my kind patroness that, but for being frequently with my
mother, I might very likely have grown up idle and useless. But I saw
so much of her, and of her patients, that the ambition to become a
doctress early took firm root in my mind; and I was very young when I
began to make use of the little knowledge I had acquired from watching
my mother, upon a great sufferer--my doll. I have noticed always what
actors children are. If you leave one alone in a room, how soon it
clears a little stage; and, making an audience out of a few chairs and
stools, proceeds to act its childish griefs and blandishments upon its
doll. So I also made good use of my dumb companion and confidante; and
whatever disease was most prevalent in Kingston, be sure my poor doll
soon contracted it. I have had many medical triumphs in later days,
and saved some valuable lives; but I really think that few have given
me more real gratification than the rewarding glow of health which my
fancy used to picture stealing over my patient's waxen face after long
and precarious illness.

Before long it was very natural that I should seek to extend my
practice; and so I found other patients in the dogs and cats around
me. Many luckless brutes were made to simulate diseases which were
raging among their owners, and had forced down their reluctant throats
the remedies which I deemed most likely to suit their supposed
complaints. And after a time I rose still higher in my ambition; and
despairing of finding another human patient, I proceeded to try my
simples and essences upon--myself.

When I was about twelve years old I was more frequently at my mother's
house, and used to assist her in her duties; very often sharing with
her the task of attending upon invalid officers or their wives, who
came to her house from the adjacent camp at Up-Park, or the military
station at Newcastle.

As I grew into womanhood, I began to indulge that longing to travel
which will never leave me while I have health and vigour. I was never
weary of tracing upon an old map the route to England; and never
followed with my gaze the stately ships homeward bound without longing
to be in them, and see the blue hills of Jamaica fade into the
distance. At that time it seemed most improbable that these girlish
wishes should be gratified; but circumstances, which I need not
explain, enabled me to accompany some relatives to England while I was
yet a very young woman.

I shall never forget my first impressions of London. Of course, I am
not going to bore the reader with them; but they are as vivid now as
though the year 18-- (I had very nearly let my age slip then) had not
been long ago numbered with the past. Strangely enough, some of the
most vivid of my recollections are the efforts of the London
street-boys to poke fun at my and my companion's complexion. I am only
a little brown--a few shades duskier than the brunettes whom you all
admire so much; but my companion was very dark, and a fair (if I can
apply the term to her) subject for their rude wit. She was
hot-tempered, poor thing! and as there were no policemen to awe the
boys and turn our servants' heads in those days, our progress through
the London streets was sometimes a rather chequered one.

I remained in England, upon the occasion of my first visit, about a
year; and then returned to Kingston. Before long I again started for
London, bringing with me this time a large stock of West Indian
preserves and pickles for sale. After remaining two years here, I
again started home; and on the way my life and adventures were very
nearly brought to a premature conclusion. Christmas-day had been kept
very merrily on board our ship the "Velusia;" and on the following day
a fire broke out in the hold. I dare say it would have resisted all
the crew's efforts to put it out, had not another ship appeared in
sight; upon which the fire quietly allowed itself to be extinguished.
Although considerably alarmed, I did not lose my senses; but during
the time when the contest between fire and water was doubtful, I
entered into an amicable arrangement with the ship's cook, whereby, in
consideration of two pounds--which I was not, however, to pay until
the crisis arrived--he agreed to lash me on to a large hen-coop.

Before I had been long in Jamaica I started upon other trips, many of
them undertaken with a view to gain. Thus I spent some time in New
Providence, bringing home with me a large collection of handsome
shells and rare shell-work, which created quite a sensation in
Kingston, and had a rapid sale; I visited also Hayti and Cuba. But I
hasten onward in my narrative.

Returned to Kingston, I nursed my old indulgent patroness in her last
long illness. After she died, in my arms, I went to my mother's house,
where I stayed, making myself useful in a variety of ways, and
learning a great deal of Creole medicinal art, until I couldn't find
courage to say "no" to a certain arrangement timidly proposed by Mr.
Seacole, but married him, and took him down to Black River, where we
established a store. Poor man! he was very delicate; and before I
undertook the charge of him, several doctors had expressed most
unfavourable opinions of his health. I kept him alive by kind nursing
and attention as long as I could; but at last he grew so ill that we
left Black River, and returned to my mother's house at Kingston.
Within a month of our arrival there he died. This was my first great
trouble, and I felt it bitterly. For days I never stirred--lost to all
that passed around me in a dull stupor of despair. If you had told me
that the time would soon come when I should remember this sorrow
calmly, I should not have believed it possible: and yet it was so. I
do not think that we hot-blooded Creoles sorrow less for showing it so
impetuously; but I do think that the sharp edge of our grief wears
down sooner than theirs who preserve an outward demeanour of calmness,
and nurse their woe secretly in their hearts.



I had one other great grief to master--the loss of my mother, and then
I was left alone to battle with the world as best I might. The
struggles which it cost me to succeed in life were sometimes very
trying; nor have they ended yet. But I have always turned a bold front
to fortune, and taken, and shall continue to take, as my brave friends
in the army and navy have shown me how, "my hurts before." Although it
was no easy thing for a widow to make ends meet, I never allowed
myself to know what repining or depression was, and so succeeded in
gaining not only my daily bread, but many comforts besides from the
beginning. Indeed, my experience of the world--it is not finished yet,
but I do not think it will give me reason to change my opinion--leads
me to the conclusion that it is by no means the hard bad world which
some selfish people would have us believe it. It may be as my editor

    "That gently comes the world to those
    That are cast in gentle mould;"

hinting at the same time, politely, that the rule may apply to me
personally. And perhaps he is right, for although I was always a
hearty, strong woman--plain-spoken people might say stout--I think my
heart is soft enough.

How slowly and gradually I succeeded in life, need not be told at
length. My fortunes underwent the variations which befall all.
Sometimes I was rich one day, and poor the next. I never thought too
exclusively of money, believing rather that we were born to be happy,
and that the surest way to be wretched is to prize it overmuch. Had I
done so, I should have mourned over many a promising speculation
proving a failure, over many a pan of preserves or guava jelly burnt
in the making; and perhaps lost my mind when the great fire of 1843,
which devastated Kingston, burnt down my poor home. As it was, I very
nearly lost my life, for I would not leave my house until every chance
of saving it had gone, and it was wrapped in flames. But, of course, I
set to work again in a humbler way, and rebuilt my house by degrees,
and restocked it, succeeding better than before; for I had gained a
reputation as a skilful nurse and doctress, and my house was always
full of invalid officers and their wives from Newcastle, or the
adjacent Up-Park Camp. Sometimes I had a naval or military surgeon
under my roof, from whom I never failed to glean instruction, given,
when they learned my love for their profession, with a readiness and
kindness I am never likely to forget. Many of these kind friends are
alive now. I met with some when my adventures had carried me to the
battle-fields of the Crimea; and to those whose eyes may rest upon
these pages I again offer my acknowledgments for their past kindness,
which helped me to be useful to my kind in many lands.

And here I may take the opportunity of explaining that it was from a
confidence in my own powers, and not at all from necessity, that I
remained an unprotected female. Indeed, I do not mind confessing to my
reader, in a friendly confidential way, that one of the hardest
struggles of my life in Kingston was to resist the pressing candidates
for the late Mr. Seacole's shoes.

Officers of high rank sometimes took up their abode in my house.
Others of inferior rank were familiar with me, long before their
bravery, and, alas! too often death, in the Crimea, made them world
famous. There were few officers of the 97th to whom Mother Seacole was
not well known, before she joined them in front of Sebastopol; and
among the best known was good-hearted, loveable, noble H---- V----,
whose death shocked me so terribly, and with whose useful heroic life
the English public have become so familiar. I can hear the ring of his
boyish laughter even now.

In the year 1850, the cholera swept over the island of Jamaica with
terrible force. Our idea--perhaps an unfounded one--was, that a
steamer from New Orleans was the means of introducing it into the
island. Anyhow, they sent some clothes on shore to be washed, and poor
Dolly Johnson, the washerwoman, whom we all knew, sickened and died of
the terrible disease. While the cholera raged, I had but too many
opportunities of watching its nature, and from a Dr. B----, who was
then lodging in my house, received many hints as to its treatment
which I afterwards found invaluable.

Early in the same year my brother had left Kingston for the Isthmus of
Panama, then the great high-road to and from golden California, where
he had established a considerable store and hotel. Ever since he had
done so, I had found some difficulty in checking my reviving
disposition to roam, and at last persuading myself that I might be of
use to him (he was far from strong), I resigned my house into the
hands of a cousin, and made arrangements to journey to Chagres. Having
come to this conclusion, I allowed no grass to grow beneath my feet,
but set to work busily, for I was not going to him empty-handed. My
house was full for weeks, of tailors, making up rough coats, trousers,
etc., and sempstresses cutting out and making shirts. In addition to
these, my kitchen was filled with busy people, manufacturing
preserves, guava jelly, and other delicacies, while a considerable sum
was invested in the purchase of preserved meats, vegetables, and eggs.
It will be as well, perhaps, if I explain, in as few words as
possible, the then condition of the Isthmus of Panama.

All my readers must know--a glance at the map will show it to those
who do not--that between North America and the envied shores of
California stretches a little neck of land, insignificant-looking
enough on the map, dividing the Atlantic from the Pacific. By crossing
this, the travellers from America avoided a long, weary, and dangerous
sea voyage round Cape Horn, or an almost impossible journey by land.

But that journey across the Isthmus, insignificant in distance as it
was, was by no means an easy one. It seemed as if nature had
determined to throw every conceivable obstacle in the way of those who
should seek to join the two great oceans of the world. I have read and
heard many accounts of old endeavours to effect this important and
gigantic work, and how miserably they failed. It was reserved for the
men of our age to accomplish what so many had died in attempting, and
iron and steam, twin giants, subdued to man's will, have put a girdle
over rocks and rivers, so that travellers can glide as smoothly, if
not as inexpensively, over the once terrible Isthmus of Darien, as
they can from London to Brighton. Not yet, however, does civilization,
rule at Panama. The weak sway of the New Granada Republic, despised by
lawless men, and respected by none, is powerless to control the refuse
of every nation which meet together upon its soil. Whenever they feel
inclined now they overpower the law easily; but seven years ago, when
I visited the Isthmus of Panama, things were much worse, and a licence
existed, compared to which the present lawless state of affairs is

When, after passing Chagres, an old-world, tumble-down town, for about
seven miles, the steamer reached Navy Bay, I thought I had never seen
a more luckless, dreary spot. Three sides of the place were a mere
swamp, and the town itself stood upon a sand-reef, the houses being
built upon piles, which some one told me rotted regularly every three
years. The railway, which now connects the bay with Panama, was then
building, and ran, as far as we could see, on piles, connected with
the town by a wooden jetty. It seemed as capital a nursery for ague
and fever as Death could hit upon anywhere, and those on board the
steamer who knew it confirmed my opinion. As we arrived a steady
down-pour of rain was falling from an inky sky; the white men who met
us on the wharf appeared ghostly and wraith-like, and the very negroes
seemed pale and wan. The news which met us did not tempt me to lose
any time in getting up the country to my brother. According to all
accounts, fever and ague, with some minor diseases, especially dropsy,
were having it all their own way at Navy Bay, and, although I only
stayed one night in the place, my medicine chest was called into
requisition. But the sufferers wanted remedies which I could not give
them--warmth, nourishment, and fresh air. Beneath leaky tents, damp
huts, and even under broken railway waggons, I saw men dying from
sheer exhaustion. Indeed, I was very glad when, with the morning, the
crowd, as the Yankees called the bands of pilgrims to and from
California, made ready to ascend to Panama.

The first stage of our journey was by railway to Gatun, about twelve
miles distant. For the greater portion of that distance the lines ran
on piles, over as unhealthy and wretched a country as the eye could
well grow weary of; but, at last, the country improved, and you caught
glimpses of distant hills and English-like scenery. Every mile of that
fatal railway cost the world thousands of lives. I was assured that
its site was marked thickly by graves, and that so great was the
mortality among the labourers that three times the survivors struck in
a body, and their places had to be supplied by fresh victims from
America, tempted by unheard-of rates of wages. It is a gigantic
undertaking, and shows what the energy and enterprise of man can
accomplish. Everything requisite for its construction, even the
timber, had to be prepared in, and brought from, America.

The railway then ran no further than Gatun, and here we were to take
water and ascend the River Chagres to Gorgona, the next stage on the
way to Cruces, where my brother was. The cars landed us at the bottom
of a somewhat steep cutting through a reddish clay, and deposited me
and my suite, consisting of a black servant, named "Mac," and a little
girl, in safety in the midst of my many packages, not altogether
satisfied with my prospects; for the rain was falling heavily and
steadily, and the Gatun porters were possessing themselves of my
luggage with that same avidity which distinguishes their brethren on
the pier of Calais or the quays of Pera. There are two species of
individuals whom I have found alike wherever my travels have carried
me--the reader can guess their professions--porters and lawyers.

It was as much as I could do to gather my packages together, sit in
the midst with a determined look to awe the hungry crowd around me,
and send "Mac" up the steep slippery bank to report progress. After a
little while he returned to say that the river-side was not far off,
where boats could be hired for the upward journey. The word given, the
porters threw themselves upon my packages; a pitched battle ensued,
out of which issued the strongest Spanish Indians, with their hardly
earned prizes, and we commenced the ascent of the clayey bank. Now,
although the surveyors of the Darien highways had considerately cut
steps up the steep incline, they had become worse than useless, so I
floundered about terribly, more than once losing my footing
altogether. And as with that due regard to personal appearance, which
I have always deemed a duty as well as a pleasure to study, I had,
before leaving Navy Bay, attired myself in a delicate light blue
dress, a white bonnet prettily trimmed, and an equally chaste shawl,
the reader can sympathise with my distress. However, I gained the
summit, and after an arduous descent, of a few minutes duration,
reached the river-side; in a most piteous plight, however, for my
pretty dress, from its contact with the Gatun clay, looked as red as
if, in the pursuit of science, I had passed it through a strong
solution of muriatic acid.

By the water-side I found my travelling companions arguing angrily
with the shrewd boatmen, and bating down their fares. Upon collecting
my luggage, I found, as I had expected, that the porters had not
neglected the glorious opportunity of robbing a woman, and that
several articles were missing. Complaints, I knew, would not avail me,
and stronger measures seemed hazardous and barely advisable in a
lawless out-of-the-way spot, where

              "The simple plan,
    That they should take who have the power,
    And they should keep who can,"

seemed universally practised, and would very likely have been defended
by its practitioners upon principle.

It was not so easy to hire a boat as I had been led to expect. The
large crowd had made the boatmen somewhat exorbitant in their demands,
and there were several reasons why I should engage one for my own
exclusive use, instead of sharing one with some of my travelling
companions. In the first place, my luggage was somewhat bulky; and, in
the second place, my experience of travel had not failed to teach me
that Americans (even from the Northern States) are always
uncomfortable in the company of coloured people, and very often show
this feeling in stronger ways than by sour looks and rude words. I
think, if I have a little prejudice against our cousins across the
Atlantic--and I do confess to a little--it is not unreasonable. I have
a few shades of deeper brown upon my skin which shows me related--and
I am proud of the relationship--to those poor mortals whom you once
held enslaved, and whose bodies America still owns. And having this
bond, and knowing what slavery is; having seen with my eyes and heard
with my ears proof positive enough of its horrors--let others affect
to doubt them if they will--is it surprising that I should be somewhat
impatient of the airs of superiority which many Americans have
endeavoured to assume over me? Mind, I am not speaking of all. I have
met with some delightful exceptions.

At length I succeeded in hiring a boat for the modest consideration of
ten pounds, to carry me and my fortunes to Cruces. My boat was far
from uncomfortable. Large and flat-bottomed, with an awning, dirty it
must be confessed, beneath which swung a hammock, of which I took
immediate possession. By the way, the Central Americans should adopt
the hammock as their national badge; but for sheer necessity they
would never leave it. The master of the boat, the padrone, was a fine
tall negro, his crew were four common enough specimens of humanity,
with a marked disregard of the prejudices of society with respect to
clothing. A dirty handkerchief rolled over the head, and a wisp of
something, which might have been linen, bound round the loins, formed
their attire. Perhaps, however, the thick coating of dirt which
covered them kept them warmer than more civilized clothing, besides
being indisputably more economical.

The boat was generally propelled by paddles, but when the river was
shallow, poles were used to punt us along, as on English rivers; the
black padrone, whose superior position was indicated by the use of
decent clothing, standing at the helm, gesticulating wildly, and
swearing Spanish oaths with a vehemence that would have put Corporal
Trim's comrades in Flanders to the blush. Very much shocked, of
course, but finding it perfectly useless to remonstrate with him, I
swung myself in my hammock and leisurely watched the river scene.

The river Chagres lolled with considerable force, now between low
marshy shores, now narrowing, between steep, thickly wooded banks. It
was liable, as are all rivers in hilly districts, to sudden and heavy
floods; and although the padrone, on leaving Gatun, had pledged his
soul to land me at Cruces that night, I had not been long afloat
before I saw that he would forfeit his worthless pledge; for the wind
rose to a gale, ruffling the river here and there into a little sea;
the rain came down in torrents, while the river rose rapidly, bearing
down on its swollen stream trunks of trees, and similar waifs and
strays, which it tossed about like a giant in sport, threatening to
snag us with its playthings every moment. And when we came to a
sheltered reach, and found that the little fleet of boats which had
preceded us had laid to there, I came to the conclusion that, stiff,
tired, and hungry, I should have to pass a night upon the river
Chagres. All I could get to eat was some guavas, which grew wild upon
the banks, and then I watched the padrone curl his long body up among
my luggage, and listened to the crew, who had rolled together at the
bottom of the boat, snore as peacefully as if they slept between fair
linen sheets, in the purest of calico night-gear, and the most
unexceptionable of nightcaps, until somehow I fell into a troubled,
dreamy sleep.

At daybreak we were enabled to pursue our journey, and in a short time
reached Gorgona. I was glad enough to go on shore, as you may imagine.
Gorgona was a mere temporary town of bamboo and wood houses, hastily
erected to serve as a station for the crowd. In the present rainy
season, when the river was navigable up to Cruces, the chief part of
the population migrated thither, so that Gorgona was almost deserted,
and looked indescribably damp, dirty, and dull. With some difficulty I
found a bakery and a butcher's shop. The meat was not very tempting,
for the Gorgona butchers did not trouble themselves about joints, but
cut the flesh into strips about three inches wide, and of various
lengths. These were hung upon rails, so that you bought your meat by
the yard, and were spared any difficulty in the choice of joint. I
cannot say that I was favourably impressed with this novel and simple
way of avoiding trouble, but I was far too hungry to be particular,
and buying a strip for a quarter of a real, carried it off to Mac to

Late that afternoon, the padrone and his crew landed me, tired,
wretched, and out of temper, upon the miserable wharf of Cruces.



The sympathising reader, who very likely has been laughing heartily at
my late troubles, can fancy that I was looking forward with no little
pleasurable anticipation to reaching my brother's cheerful home at
Cruces. After the long night spent on board the wretched boat in my
stiff, clayey dress, and the hours of fasting, the warmth and good
cheer of the Independent Hotel could not fail to be acceptable. My
brother met me on the rickety wharf with the kindest welcome in his
face, although he did not attempt to conceal a smile at my forlorn
appearance, and giving the necessary instructions about my luggage,
led the way at once to his house, which was situated at the upper end
of the street. A capital site, he said, when the rest of the town was
under water--which agreeable variety occurred twice or thrice a year
unexpectedly. On our way, he rather damped my hopes by expressing his
fears that he should be unable to provide his sister with the
accommodation he could wish. For you see, he said, the crowd from
Panama has just come in, meeting your crowd from Navy Bay; and I
shouldn't be at all surprised if very many of them have no better bed
than the store floors. But, despite this warning, I was miserably
unprepared for the reception that awaited me. To be sure, I found
Cruces as like Gorgona, in its dampness, dirt, and confusion, as it
well could be; but the crowd from the gold-fields of California had
just arrived, having made the journey from Panama on mules, and the
street was filled with motley groups in picturesque variety of attire.
The hotels were also full of them, while many lounged in the verandahs
after their day's journey. Rude, coarse gold-diggers, in gay-coloured
shirts, and long, serviceable boots, elbowed, in perfect equality,
keen Yankee speculators, as close shaven, neat, and clean on the
Isthmus of Panama as in the streets of New York or New Orleans. The
women alone kept aloof from each other, and well they might; for,
while a very few seemed not ashamed of their sex, it was somewhat
difficult to distinguish the majority from their male companions, save
by their bolder and more reckless voice and manner. I must say,
however, that many of them adopted male attire for the journey across
the Isthmus only, as it spared them many compliments which their
husbands were often disposed to resent, however flattering they might
be to their choice.

Through all these I pressed on, stiff, cold, and hungry, to the
Independent Hotel, eagerly anticipating the comforts which awaited me
there. At length we reached it. But, rest! warmth! comfort!--miserable
delusions! Picture to yourself, sympathising reader, a long, low hut,
built of rough, unhewn, unplaned logs, filled up with mud and split
bamboo; a long, sloping roof and a large verandah, already full of
visitors. And the interior: a long room, gaily hung with dirty
calico, in stripes of red and white; above it another room, in which
the guests slept, having the benefit of sharing in any orgies which
might be going on below them, through the broad chinks between the
rough, irregular planks which formed its floor. At the further end, a
small corner, partitioned roughly off, formed a bar, and around it
were shelves laden with stores for the travellers, while behind it was
a little room used by my brother as his private apartment; but three
female travellers had hired it for their own especial use for the
night, paying the enormous sum of £10 for so exclusive a luxury. At
the entrance sat a black man, taking toll of the comers-in, giving
them in exchange for coin or gold-dust (he had a rusty pair of scales
to weigh the latter) a dirty ticket, which guaranteed them supper, a
night's lodging, and breakfast. I saw all this very quickly, and
turned round upon my brother in angry despair.

"What am I to do? Why did you ever bring me to this place? See what a
state I am in--cold, hungry, and wretched. I want to wash, to change
my clothes, to eat, to----"

But poor Edward could only shrug his shoulders and shake his head, in
answer to my indignant remonstrances. At last he made room for me in a
corner of the crowded bar, set before me some food, and left me to
watch the strange life I had come to; and before long I soon forgot my
troubles in the novelty of my position.

The difference between the passengers to and from California was very
distinguishable. Those bound for the gold country were to a certain
extent fresh from civilization, and had scarcely thrown off its
control; whereas the homeward bound revelled in disgusting excess of
licence. Although many of the women on their way to California showed
clearly enough that the life of licence they sought would not be
altogether unfamiliar to them, they still retained some appearance of
decency in their attire and manner; but in many cases (as I have
before said) the female companions of the successful gold-diggers
appeared in no hurry to resume the dress or obligations of their sex.
Many were clothed as the men were, in flannel shirt and boots; rode
their mules in unfeminine fashion, but with much ease and courage; and
in their conversation successfully rivalled the coarseness of their
lords. I think, on the whole, that those French lady writers who
desire to enjoy the privileges of man, with the irresponsibility of
the other sex, would have been delighted with the disciples who were
carrying their principles into practice in the streets of Cruces.

The chief object of all the travellers seemed to be dinner or supper;
I do not know what term they gave it. Down the entire length of the
Independent Hotel ran a table covered with a green oilskin cloth, and
at proper intervals were placed knives and forks, plates, and cups and
saucers turned down; and when a new-comer received his ticket, and
wished to secure his place for the coming repast, he would turn his
plate, cup, and saucer up; which mode of reserving seats seemed
respected by the rest. And as the evening wore on, the shouting and
quarrelling at the doorway in Yankee twang increased momentarily;
while some seated themselves at the table, and hammering upon it with
the handles of their knives, hallooed out to the excited nigger cooks
to make haste with the slapjack. Amidst all this confusion, my
brother was quietly selling shirts, boots, trousers, etc., to the
travellers; while above all the din could be heard the screaming
voices of his touters without, drawing attention to the good cheer of
the Independent Hotel. Over and over again, while I cowered in my snug
corner, wishing to avoid the notice of all, did I wish myself safe
back in my pleasant home in Kingston; but it was too late to find out
my mistake now.

At last the table was nearly filled with a motley assemblage of men
and women, and the slapjack, hot and steaming, was carried in by the
black cooks. The hungry diners welcomed its advent with a shout of
delight; and yet it did not seem particularly tempting. But beyond all
doubt it was a capital _pièce de résistance_ for great eaters; and
before the dinner was over, I saw ample reasons to induce any
hotel-keeper to give it his patronage. In truth, it was a thick
substantial pancake of flour, salt, and water--eggs were far too
expensive to be used in its composition; and by the time the supply
had disappeared, I thought the largest appetites must have been
stayed. But it was followed by pork, strips of beef stewed with hard
dumplings, hams, great dishes of rice, jugs of molasses and treacle
for sauce; the whole being washed down with an abundance of tea and
coffee. Chickens and eggs were provided for those who were prepared to
pay for these luxuries of Panama life. But, so scarce and expensive
were they, that, as I afterwards discovered, those hotel-keepers whose
larders were so stocked would hang out a chicken upon their signposts,
as a sure attraction for the richer and more reckless diggers; while
the touter's cry of "Eggs and chickens here" was a very telling one.
Wine and spirits were also obtainable, but were seldom taken by the
Americans, who are abstemious abroad as well as at home.

After dinner the store soon cleared. Gambling was a great attraction;
but my brother, dreading its consequences with these hot-brained
armed men, allowed none to take place in his hotel. So some lounged
away to the faro and monte tables, which were doing a busy trade;
others loitered in the verandah, smoking, and looking at the native
women, who sang and danced fandangos before them. The whole of the
dirty, woe-begone place, which had looked so wretched by the light of
day, was brilliantly illuminated now. Night would bring no rest to
Cruces, while the crowds were there to be fed, cheated, or amused.
Daybreak would find the faro-tables, with their piles of silver and
little heaps of gold-dust, still surrounded by haggard gamblers;
daybreak would gleam sickly upon the tawdry finery of the poor
Spanish singers and dancers, whose weary night's work would enable
them to live upon the travellers' bounty for the next week or so.
These few hours of gaiety and excitement were to provide the Cruces
people with food and clothing for as many days; and while their
transitory sun shone, I will do them the justice to say they gathered
in their hay busily. In the exciting race for gold, we need not be
surprised at the strange groups which line the race-course. All that
I wondered at was, that I had not foreseen what I found, or that my
rage for change and novelty had closed my ears against the warning
voices of those who knew somewhat of the high-road to California; but
I was too tired to moralise long, and begged my brother to find me a
bed somewhere. He failed to do so completely, and in despair I took
the matter in my own hands; and stripping the green oilskin cloth
from the rough table--it would not be wanted again until to-morrow's
breakfast--pinned up some curtains round the table's legs, and turned
in with my little servant beneath it. It was some comfort to know
that my brother, his servants, and Mac brought their mattresses, and
slept upon it above us. It was a novel bed, and required some slight
stretch of the imagination to fancy it a four-poster; but I was too
tired to be particular, and slept soundly.

We were up right early on the following morning; and refreshed with my
night's sleep, I entered heartily into the preparations for breakfast.
That meal over, the homeward-bound passengers took boats _en route_
for Gorgona, while those bound for California hired mules for the land
journey to Panama. So after awhile all cleared away, and Cruces was
left to its unhealthy solitude.



I do not think I have ever known what it is to despair, or even to
despond (if such were my inclination, I have had some opportunities
recently), and it was not long before I began to find out the bright
side of Cruces life, and enter into schemes for staying there. But it
would be a week or so before the advent of another crowd would wake
Cruces to life and activity again; and in the meanwhile, and until I
could find a convenient hut for my intended hotel, I remained my
brother's guest.

But it was destined that I should not be long in Cruces before my
medicinal skill and knowledge were put to the test. Before the
passengers for Panama had been many days gone, it was found that they
had left one of their number behind them, and that one--the cholera. I
believe that the faculty have not yet come to the conclusion that the
cholera is contagious, and I am not presumptuous enough to forestall
them; but my people have always considered it to be so, and the poor
Cruces folks did not hesitate to say that this new and terrible plague
had been a fellow-traveller with the Americans from New Orleans or
some other of its favoured haunts. I had the first intimation of its
unwelcome presence in the following abrupt and unpleasant manner:--

A Spaniard, an old and intimate friend of my brother, had supped with
him one evening, and upon returning home had been taken ill, and after
a short period of intense suffering had died. So sudden and so
mysterious a death gave rise to the rumour that he had been poisoned,
and suspicion rested for a time, perhaps not unnaturally, upon my
brother, in whose company the dead man had last been. Anxious for many
reasons--the chief one, perhaps, the position of my brother--I went
down to see the corpse. A single glance at the poor fellow showed me
the terrible truth. The distressed face, sunken eyes, cramped limbs,
and discoloured shrivelled skin were all symptoms which I had been
familiar with very recently; and at once I pronounced the cause of
death to be cholera. The Cruces people were mightily angry with me
for expressing such an opinion; even my brother, although it relieved
him of the odium of a great crime, was as annoyed as the rest. But by
twelve o'clock that morning one of the Spaniard's friends was attacked
similarly, and the very people who had been most angry with me a few
hours previously, came to me now eager for advice. There was no doctor
in Cruces; the nearest approach to one was a little timid dentist, who
was there by accident, and who refused to prescribe for the sufferer,
and I was obliged to do my best. Selecting from my medicine chest--I
never travel anywhere without it--what I deemed necessary, I went
hastily to the patient, and at once adopted the remedies I considered
fit. It was a very obstinate case, but by dint of mustard emetics,
warm fomentations, mustard plasters on the stomach and the back, and
calomel, at first in large then in gradually smaller doses, I
succeeded in saving my first cholera patient in Cruces.

For a few days the terrible disease made such slow progress amongst us
that we almost hoped it had passed on its way and spared us; but all
at once it spread rapidly, and affrighted faces and cries of woe soon
showed how fatally the destroyer was at work. And in so great request
were my services, that for days and nights together I scarcely knew
what it was to enjoy two successive hours' rest.

And here I must pause to set myself right with my kind reader. He or
she will not, I hope, think that, in narrating these incidents, I am
exalting my poor part in them unduly. I do not deny (it is the only
thing indeed that I have to be proud of) that I _am_ pleased and
gratified when I look back upon my past life, and see times now and
then, and places here and there, when and where I have been enabled to
benefit my fellow-creatures suffering from ills my skill could often
remedy. Nor do I think that the kind reader will consider this feeling
an unworthy one. If it be so, and if, in the following pages, the
account of what Providence has given me strength to do on larger
fields of action be considered vain or egotistical, still I cannot
help narrating them, for my share in them appears to be the one and
only claim I have to interest the public ear. Moreover I shall be
sadly disappointed, if those years of life which may be still in store
for me are not permitted by Providence to be devoted to similar
usefulness. I am not ashamed to confess--for the gratification is,
after all, a selfish one--that I love to be of service to those who
need a woman's help. And wherever the need arises--on whatever distant
shore--I ask no greater or higher privilege than to minister to it.
After this explanation, I resume more freely the account of my labours
in Cruces.

It was scarcely surprising that the cholera should spread rapidly, for
fear is its powerful auxiliary, and the Cruces people bowed down
before the plague in slavish despair. The Americans and other
foreigners in the place showed a brave front, but the natives,
constitutionally cowardly, made not the feeblest show of resistance.
Beyond filling the poor church, and making the priests bring out into
the streets figures of tawdry dirty saints, supposed to possess some
miraculous influence which they never exerted, before which they
prostrated themselves, invoking their aid with passionate prayers and
cries, they did nothing. Very likely the saints would have got the
credit of helping them if they had helped themselves; but the poor
cowards never stirred a finger to clean out their close, reeking huts,
or rid the damp streets of the rotting accumulation of months. I think
their chief reliance was on "the yellow woman from Jamaica with the
cholera medicine." Nor was this surprising; for the Spanish doctor,
who was sent for from Panama, became nervous and frightened at the
horrors around him, and the people soon saw that he was not familiar
with the terrible disease he was called upon to do battle with, and
preferred trusting to one who was.

It must be understood that many of those who could afford to pay for
my services did so handsomely, but the great majority of my patients
had nothing better to give their doctress than thanks. The best part
of my practice lay amongst the American store and hotel keepers, the
worst among the native boatmen and muleteers. These latter died by
scores, and among them I saw some scenes of horror I would fain
forget, if it were possible. One terrible night, passed with some of
them, has often haunted me. I will endeavour to narrate it, and should
the reader be supposed to think it highly coloured and doubtful, I
will only tell him that, terrible as it seems, I saw almost as fearful
scenes on the Crimean peninsula among British men, a few thousand
miles only from comfort and plenty.

It was late in the evening when the largest mule-owner in Cruces came
to me and implored me to accompany him to his kraal, a short distance
from the town, where he said some of his men were dying. One in
particular, his head muleteer, a very valuable servant, he was most
selfishly anxious for, and, on the way thither, promised me a large
remuneration if I should succeed in saving him. Our journey was not a
long one, but it rained hard, and the fields were flooded, so that it
took us some time to reach the long, low hut which he called his home.
I would rather not see such another scene as the interior of that hut
presented. Its roof scarcely sheltered its wretched inmates from the
searching rain; its floor was the damp, rank turf, trodden by the
mules' hoofs and the muleteers' feet into thick mud. Around, in dirty
hammocks, and on the damp floor, were the inmates of this wretched
place, male and female, the strong and the sick together, breathing
air that nearly choked me, accustomed as I had grown to live in impure
atmosphere; for beneath the same roof the mules, more valuable to
their master than his human servants, were stabled, their fore-feet
locked, and beside them were heaps of saddles, packs, and harness. The
groans of the sufferers and the anxiety and fear of their comrades
were so painful to hear and witness, that for a few minutes I felt an
almost uncontrollable impulse to run out into the stormy night, and
flee from this plague-spot. But the weak feeling vanished, and I set
about my duty. The mule-owner was so frightened that he did not
hesitate to obey orders, and, by my directions, doors and shutters
were thrown open, fires were lighted, and every effort made to
ventilate the place; and then, with the aid of the frightened women, I
applied myself to my poor patients. Two were beyond my skill. Death
alone could give them relief. The others I could help. But no words of
mine could induce them to bear their terrible sufferings like men.
They screamed and groaned, not like women, for few would have been so
craven-hearted, but like children; calling, in the intervals of
violent pain, upon Jesu, the Madonna, and all the saints of heaven
whom their lives had scandalised. I stayed with them until midnight,
and then got away for a little time. But I had not long been quiet,
before the mule-master was after me again. The men were worse; would I
return with him. The rain was drifting heavily on the thatched roof,
as it only does in tropical climates, and I was tired to death; but I
could not resist his appeal. He had brought with him a pair of tall,
thick boots, in which I was to wade through the flooded fields; and
with some difficulty I again reached the kraal. I found the worst
cases sinking fast, one of the others had relapsed, while fear had
paralysed the efforts of the rest. At last I restored some order; and,
with the help of the bravest of the women, fixed up rude screens
around the dying men. But no screens could shut out from the others
their awful groans and cries for the aid that no mortal power could
give them. So the long night passed away; first a deathlike stillness
behind one screen, and then a sudden silence behind the other, showing
that the fierce battle with death was over, and who had been the
victor. And, meanwhile, I sat before the flickering fire, with my last
patient in my lap--a poor, little, brown-faced orphan infant, scarce a
year old, was dying in my arms, and I was powerless to save it. It may
seem strange, but it is a fact, that I thought more of that little
child than I did of the men who were struggling for their lives, and
prayed very earnestly and solemnly to God to spare it. But it did not
please Him to grant my prayer, and towards morning the wee spirit
left this sinful world for the home above it had so lately left, and
what was mortal of the little infant lay dead in my arms. Then it was
that I began to think--how the idea first arose in my mind I can
hardly say--that, if it were possible to take this little child and
examine it, I should learn more of the terrible disease which was
sparing neither young nor old, and should know better how to do battle
with it. I was not afraid to use my baby patient thus. I knew its fled
spirit would not reproach me, for I had done all I could for it in
life--had shed tears over it, and prayed for it.

It was cold grey dawn, and the rain had ceased, when I followed the
man who had taken the dead child away to bury it, and bribed him to
carry it by an unfrequented path down to the river-side, and accompany
me to the thick retired bush on the opposite bank. Having persuaded
him thus much, it was not difficult, with the help of silver arguments
to convince him that it would be for the general benefit and his own,
if I could learn from this poor little thing the secret inner workings
of our common foe; and ultimately he stayed by me, and aided me in my
first and last _post mortem_ examination. It seems a strange deed to
accomplish, and I am sure I could not wield the scalpel or the
substitute I then used now, but at that time the excitement had
strung my mind up to a high pitch of courage and determination; and
perhaps the daily, almost hourly, scenes of death had made me somewhat
callous. I need not linger on this scene, nor give the readers the
results of my operation; although novel to me, and decidedly useful,
they were what every medical man well knows.

We buried the poor little body beneath a piece of luxuriant turf, and
stole back into Cruces like guilty things. But the knowledge I had
obtained thus strangely was very valuable to me, and was soon put into
practice. But that I dreaded boring my readers, I would fain give them
some idea of my treatment of this terrible disease. I have no doubt
that at first I made some lamentable blunders, and, may be, lost
patients which a little later I could have saved. I know I came
across, the other day, some notes of cholera medicines which made me
shudder, and I dare say they have been used in their turn and found
wanting. The simplest remedies were perhaps the best. Mustard
plasters, and emetics, and calomel; the mercury applied externally,
where the veins were nearest the surface, were my usual resources.
Opium I rather dreaded, as its effect is to incapacitate the system
from making any exertion, and it lulls the patient into a sleep which
is often the sleep of death. When my patients felt thirsty, I would
give them water in which cinnamon had been boiled. One stubborn attack
succumbed to an additional dose of ten grains of sugar of lead, mixed
in a pint of water, given in doses of a table-spoonful every quarter
of an hour. Another patient, a girl, I rubbed over with warm oil,
camphor, and spirits of wine. Above all, I never neglected to apply
mustard poultices to the stomach, spine, and neck, and particularly to
keep my patient warm about the region of the heart. Nor did I relax my
care when the disease had passed by, for danger did not cease when the
great foe was beaten off. The patient was left prostrate;
strengthening medicines had to be given cautiously, for fever, often
of the brain, would follow. But, after all, one great conclusion,
which my practice in cholera cases enabled me to come to, was the old
one, that few constitutions permitted the use of exactly similar
remedies, and that the course of treatment which saved one man, would,
if persisted in, have very likely killed his brother.

Generally speaking, the cholera showed premonitory symptoms; such as
giddiness, sickness, diarrhoea, or sunken eyes and distressed look;
but sometimes the substance followed its forecoming shadow so quickly,
and the crisis was so rapid, that there was no time to apply any
remedies. An American carpenter complained of giddiness and
sickness--warning signs--succeeded so quickly by the worst symptoms of
cholera, that in less than an hour his face became of an indigo tint,
his limbs were doubled up horribly with violent cramps, and he died.

To the convicts--and if there could be grades of wretchedness in
Cruces, these poor creatures were the lowest--belonged the terrible
task of burying the dead; a duty to which they showed the utmost
repugnance. Not unfrequently, at some fancied alarm, they would fling
down their burden, until at last it became necessary to employ the
soldiers to see that they discharged the task allotted to them.
Ordinarily, the victims were buried immediately after death, with such
imperfect rites of sepulture as the harassed frightened priests would
pay them, and very seldom was time afforded by the authorities to the
survivors to pay those last offices to the departed which a Spaniard
and a Catholic considers so important. Once I was present at a
terrible scene in the house of a New Granada grandee, whose pride and
poverty justified many of the old Spanish proverbs levelled at his

It was when the cholera was at its height, and yet he had
left--perhaps on important business--his wife and family, and gone to
Panama for three days. On the day after his departure, the plague
broke out in his house, and my services were required promptly. I
found the miserable household in terrible alarm, and yet confining
their exertions to praying to a coarse black priest in a black
surplice, who, kneeling beside the couch of the Spanish lady, was
praying (in his turn) to some favourite saint in Cruces. The sufferer
was a beautiful woman, suffering from a violent attack of cholera,
with no one to help her, or even to take from her arms the poor little
child they had allowed her to retain. In her intervals of comparative
freedom from pain, her cries to the Madonna and her husband were
heartrending to hear. I had the greatest difficulty to rout the stupid
priest and his as stupid worshippers, and do what I could for the
sufferer. It was very little, and before long the unconscious Spaniard
was a widower. Soon after, the authorities came for the body. I never
saw such passionate anger and despair as were shown by her relatives
and servants, old and young, at the intrusion--rage that she, who had
been so exalted in life, should go to her grave like the poor, poor
clay she was. Orders were given to bar the door against the convict
gang who had come to discharge their unpleasant duty, and while all
were busy decking out the unconscious corpse in gayest attire, none
paid any heed to me bending over the fire with the motherless child,
journeying fast to join its dead parent. I had made more than one
effort to escape, for I felt more sick and wretched than at any
similar scene of woe; but finding exit impossible, I turned my back
upon them, and attended to the dying child. Nor did I heed their
actions until I heard orders given to admit the burial party, and then
I found that they had dressed the corpse in rich white satin, and
decked her head with flowers.

The agitation and excitement of this scene had affected me as no
previous horror had done, and I could not help fancying that symptoms
were showing themselves in me with which I was familiar enough in
others. Leaving the dying infant to the care of its relatives (when
the Spaniard returned he found himself widowed and childless), I
hastened to my brother's house. When there, I felt an unpleasant chill
come over me, and went to bed at once. Other symptoms followed
quickly, and, before nightfall, I knew full well that my turn had come
at last, and that the cholera had attacked me, perhaps its greatest
foe in Cruces.



When it became known that their "yellow doctress" had the cholera, I
must do the people of Cruces the justice to say that they gave her
plenty of sympathy, and would have shown their regard for her more
actively, had there been any occasion. Indeed, when I most wanted
quiet, it was difficult to keep out the sympathising Americans and
sorrowing natives who came to inquire after me; and who, not content
with making their inquiries, and leaving their offerings of blankets,
flannel, etc., must see with their own eyes what chance the yellow
woman had of recovery. The rickety door of my little room could never
be kept shut for many minutes together. A visitor would open it
silently, poke his long face in with an expression of sympathy that
almost made me laugh in spite of my pain, draw it out again, between
the narrowest possible opening, as if he were anxious to admit as
little air as he could; while another would come in bodily, and after
looking at me curiously and inquisitively, as he would eye a horse or
nigger he had some thoughts of making a bid for, would help to carpet
my room, with the result perhaps of his meditations, and saying,
gravely, "Air you better, Aunty Seacole, now? Isn't there a something
we can du for you, ma'am?" would as gravely give place to another and
another yet, until I was almost inclined to throw something at them,
or call them bad names, like the Scotch king does the ghosts in the
play.[A] But, fortunately, the attack was a very mild one, and by the
next day all danger had gone by, although I still felt weak and

After a few weeks, the first force of the cholera was spent, and
although it lingered with us, as though loath to leave so fine a
resting-place, for some months, it no longer gave us much alarm; and
before long, life went on as briskly and selfishly as ever with the
Cruces survivors, and the terrible past was conveniently forgotten.
Perhaps it is so everywhere; but the haste with which the Cruces
people buried their memory seemed indecent. Old houses found new
masters; the mules new drivers; the great Spaniard chose another
pretty woman, and had a grand, poor, dirty wedding, and was married by
the same lazy black priest who had buried his wife, dead a few months
back; and very likely they would all have hastened as quickly to
forget their doctress, had circumstances permitted them: but every now
and then one of them sickened and died of the old complaint; and the
reputation I had established founded for me a considerable practice.
The Americans in the place gladly retained me as their medical
attendant, and in one way or other gave me plenty to do; but, in
addition to this, I determined to follow my original scheme of keeping
an hotel in Cruces.

Right opposite my brother's Independent Hotel there was a place to let
which it was considered I could adapt to my purpose. It was a mere
tumble-down hut, with wattled sides, and a rotten thatched roof,
containing two rooms, one small enough to serve as a bedroom. For this
charming residence--very openly situated, and well ventilated--twenty
pounds a month was considered a fair and by no means exorbitant rent.
And yet I was glad to take possession of it; and in a few days had
hung its rude walls with calico of gayest colour in stripes, with an
exuberance of fringes, frills, and bows (the Americans love show
dearly), and prepared it to accommodate fifty dinner guests. I had
determined that it should be simply a _table d'hôte_, and that I would
receive no lodgers. Once, and once only, I relaxed this rule in favour
of two American women, who sent me to sleep by a lengthy quarrel of
words, woke me in the night to witness its crisis in a fisticuff
_duello_, and left in the morning, after having taken a fancy to some
of my moveables which were most easily removeable. I had on my staff
my black servant Mac, the little girl I have before alluded to, and a
native cook. I had had many opportunities of seeing how my brother
conducted his business; and adopted his tariff of charges. For an
ordinary dinner my charge was four shillings; eggs and chickens were,
as I have before said, distinct luxuries, and fetched high prices.

Four crowds generally passed through Cruces every month. In these were
to be found passengers to and from Chili, Peru, and Lima, as well as
California and America. The distance from Cruces to Panama was not
great--only twenty miles, in fact; but the journey, from the want of
roads and the roughness of the country, was a most fatiguing one. In
some parts--as I found when I made the journey, in company with my
brother--it was almost impassable; and for more than half the
distance, three miles an hour was considered splendid progress. The
great majority of the travellers were rough, rude men, of dirty,
quarrelsome habits; the others were more civilized and more dangerous.
And it was not long before I grew very tired of life in Cruces,
although I made money rapidly, and pressed my brother to return to
Kingston. Poor fellow! it would have been well for him had he done so;
for he stayed only to find a grave on the Isthmus of Panama.

The company at my _table d'hôte_ was not over select; and it was often
very difficult for an unprotected female to manage them, although I
always did my best to put them in good humour. Among other comforts, I
used to hire a black barber, for the rather large consideration of two
pounds, to shave my male guests. You can scarcely conceive the
pleasure and comfort an American feels in a clean chin; and I believe
my barber attracted considerable custom to the British Hotel at
Cruces. I had a little out-house erected for his especial convenience;
and there, well provided with towels, and armed with plenty of razors,
a brush of extraordinary size, and a foaming sea of lather, José
shaved the new-comers. The rivalry to get within reach of his huge
brush was very great; and the threats used by the neglected, when the
grinning black was considered guilty of any interested partiality,
were of the fiercest description.

This duty over, they and their coarser female companions--many of them
well known to us, for they travelled backwards and forwards across the
Isthmus, hanging on to the foolish gold-finders--attacked the dinner,
very often with great lack of decency. It was no use giving them
carving-knives and forks, for very often they laid their own down to
insert a dirty hairy hand into a full dish; while the floor soon bore
evidences of the great national American habit of expectoration. Very
often quarrels would arise during the progress of dinner; and more
than once I thought the knives, which they nearly swallowed at every
mouthful, would have been turned against one another. It was, I always
thought, extremely fortunate that the reckless men rarely stimulated
their excitable passions with strong drink. Tea and coffee were the
common beverages of the Americans; Englishmen, and men of other
nations, being generally distinguishable by their demand for wine and
spirits. But the Yankee's capacity for swilling tea and coffee was
prodigious. I saw one man drink ten cups of coffee; and finding his
appetite still unsatisfied, I ran across to my brother for advice.
There was a merry twinkle in his eyes as he whispered, "I always put
in a good spoonful of salt after the sixth cup. It chokes them off

It was no easy thing to avoid being robbed and cheated by the less
scrupulous travellers; although I think it was only the 'cutest Yankee
who stood any fair chance of outwitting me. I remember an instance of
the biter bit, which I will narrate, hoping it may make my reader
laugh as heartily as its recollection makes me. He was a tall, thin
Yankee, with a furtive glance of the eyes, and an amazing appetite,
which he seemed nothing loath to indulge: his appetite for eggs
especially seemed unbounded. Now, I have more than once said how
expensive eggs were; and this day they happened to be eightpence
apiece. Our plan was to charge every diner according to the number of
shells found upon his plate. Now, I noticed how eagerly my thin guest
attacked my eggs, and marvelled somewhat at the scanty pile of shells
before him. My suspicions once excited, I soon fathomed my Yankee
friend's dodge. As soon as he had devoured the eggs, he conveyed
furtively the shells beneath the table, and distributed them
impartially at the feet of his companions. I gave my little black maid
a piece of chalk, and instructions; and creeping under the table, she
counted the scattered shells, and chalked the number on the tail of
his coat. And when he came up to pay his score, he gave up his number
of eggs in a loud voice; and when I contradicted him, and referred to
the coat-_tale_ in corroboration of _my_ score, there was a general
laugh against him. But there was a nasty expression in his cat-like
eyes, and an unpleasant allusion to mine, which were not agreeable,
and dissuaded me from playing any more practical jokes upon the

I followed my brother's example closely, and forbade all gambling in
my hotel. But I got some idea of its fruits from the cases brought to
me for surgical treatment from the faro and monte tables. Gambling at
Cruces, and on the Isthmus generally, was a business by which money
was wormed out of the gold-seekers and gold-finders. No attempt was
made to render it attractive, as I have seen done elsewhere. The
gambling-house was often plainer than our hotels; and but for the
green tables, with their piles of money and gold-dust, watched over by
a well-armed determined banker, and the eager gamblers around, you
would not know that you were in the vicinity of a spot which the
English at home designate by a very decided and extreme name. A Dr.
Casey--everybody familiar with the Americans knows their fondness for
titles--owned the most favoured table in Cruces; and this, although he
was known to be a reckless and unscrupulous villain. Most of them knew
that he had been hunted out of San Francisco; and at that time--years
before the Vigilance Committee commenced their labours of
purification--a man too bad for that city must have been a prodigy of
crime: and yet, and although he was violent-tempered, and had a knack
of referring the slightest dispute to his revolver, his table was
always crowded; probably because--the greatest rogues have some good
qualities--he was honest in his way, and played fairly.

Occasionally some distinguished passengers passed on the upward and
downward tides of rascality and ruffianism, that swept periodically
through Cruces. Came one day, Lola Montes, in the full zenith of her
evil fame, bound for California, with a strange suite. A good-looking,
bold woman, with fine, bad eyes, and a determined bearing; dressed
ostentatiously in perfect male attire, with shirt-collar turned down
over a velvet lapelled coat, richly worked shirt-front, black hat,
French unmentionables, and natty, polished boots with spurs. She
carried in her hand a handsome riding-whip, which she could use as
well in the streets of Cruces as in the towns of Europe; for an
impertinent American, presuming--perhaps not unnaturally--upon her
reputation, laid hold jestingly of the tails of her long coat, and as
a lesson received a cut across his face that must have marked him for
some days. I did not wait to see the row that followed, and was glad
when the wretched woman rode off on the following morning. A very
different notoriety followed her at some interval of time--Miss
Catherine Hayes, on her successful singing tour, who disappointed us
all by refusing to sing at Cruces; and after her came an English
bishop from Australia, who need have been a member of the church
militant to secure his pretty wife from the host of admirers she had
gained during her day's journey from Panama.

Very quarrelsome were the majority of the crowds, holding life cheap,
as all bad men strangely do--equally prepared to take or lose it upon
the slightest provocation. Few tales of horror in Panama could be
questioned on the ground of improbability. Not less partial were many
of the natives of Cruces to the use of the knife; preferring, by the
way, to administer sly stabs in the back, when no one was by to see
the dastard blow dealt. Terribly bullied by the Americans were the
boatmen and muleteers, who were reviled, shot, and stabbed by these
free and independent filibusters, who would fain whop all creation
abroad as they do their slaves at home. Whenever any Englishmen were
present, and in a position to interfere with success, this bullying
was checked; and they found, instead of the poor Spanish Indians,
foemen worthy of their steel or lead. I must do them credit to say,
that they were never loath to fight any one that desired that passing
excitement, and thought little of ending their journey of life
abruptly at the wretched wayside town of Cruces. It very often
happened so, and over many a hasty head and ready hand have I seen the
sod roughly pressed down, their hot hearts stilled suddenly in some
senseless quarrel. And so in time I grew to have some considerable
experience in the treatment of knife and gun-shot wounds.

One night I heard a great noise outside my window, and on rising found
a poor boatman moaning piteously, and in a strange jumble of many
languages begging me to help him. At first I was afraid to open the
door, on account of the noisy mob which soon joined him, for villainy
was very shrewd at Cruces; but at last I admitted him, and found that
the poor wretch's ears had been cruelly split by some hasty citizen of
the United States. I stitched them up as well as I could, and silenced
his cries. And at any time, if you happened to be near the river when
a crowd were arriving or departing, your ears would be regaled with a
choice chorus of threats, of which ear-splitting, eye-gouging,
cow-hiding, and the application of revolvers were the mildest. Against
the negroes, of whom there were many in the Isthmus, and who almost
invariably filled the municipal offices, and took the lead in every
way, the Yankees had a strong prejudice; but it was wonderful to see
how freedom and equality elevate men, and the same negro who perhaps
in Tennessee would have cowered like a beaten child or dog beneath an
American's uplifted hand, would face him boldly here, and by equal
courage and superior physical strength cow his old oppressor.

When more than ordinary squabbles occurred in the street or at the
gambling-tables, the assistance of the soldier-police of New Granada
was called in, and the affair sometimes assumed the character of a
regular skirmish. The soldiers--I wish I could speak better of
them--were a dirty, cowardly, indolent set, more prone to use their
knives than their legitimate arms, and bore old rusty muskets, and
very often marched unshod. Their officers were in outward appearance a
few shades superior to the men they commanded, but, as respects
military proficiency, were their equals. Add to this description of
their _personnel_ the well-known fact, that you might commit the
grossest injustice, and could obtain the simplest justice only by
lavish bribery, and you may form some idea of our military protectors.

Very practised and skilful in thieving were the native population of
Cruces--I speak of the majority, and except the negroes--always more
inclined to do a dishonest night's labour at great risk, than an
honest day's work for fair wages; for justice was always administered
strictly to the poor natives--it was only the foreigners who could
evade it or purchase exemption. Punishment was severe; and in extreme
cases the convicts were sent to Carthagena, there to suffer
imprisonment of a terrible character. Indeed, from what I heard of the
New Granada prisons, I thought no other country could match them, and
continued to think so until I read how the ingenuity in cruelty of his
Majesty the King of Naples put the torturers of the New Granada
Republic to the blush.

I generally avoided claiming the protection of the law whilst on the
Isthmus, for I found it was--as is the case in civilized England from
other causes--rather an expensive luxury. Once only I took a thief
caught in the act before the alcalde, and claimed the administration
of justice. The court-house was a low bamboo shed, before which some
dirty Spanish-Indian soldiers were lounging; and inside, the alcalde,
a negro, was reclining in a dirty hammock, smoking coolly, hearing
evidence, and pronouncing judgment upon the wretched culprits, who
were trembling before his dusky majesty. I had attended him while
suffering from an attack of cholera, and directly he saw me he rose
from his hammock, and received me in a ceremonious, grand manner, and
gave orders that coffee should be brought to me. He had a very pretty
white wife, who joined us; and then the alcalde politely offered me a
_cigarito_--having declined which, he listened to my statement with
great attention. All this, however, did not prevent my leaving the
necessary fee in furtherance of justice, nor his accepting it. Its
consequence was, that the thief, instead of being punished as a
criminal, was ordered to pay me the value of the stolen goods; which,
after weeks of hesitation and delay, she eventually did, in pearls,
combs, and other curiosities.

Whenever an American was arrested by the New Granada authorities,
justice had a hard struggle for the mastery, and rarely obtained it.
Once I was present at the court-house, when an American was brought in
heavily ironed, charged with having committed a highway robbery--if I
may use the term where there were no roads--on some travellers from
Chili. Around the frightened soldiers swelled an angry crowd of
brother Americans, abusing and threatening the authorities in no
measured terms, all of them indignant that a nigger should presume to
judge one of their countrymen. At last their violence so roused the
sleepy alcalde, that he positively threw himself from his hammock,
laid down his cigarito, and gave such very determined orders to his
soldiers that he succeeded in checking the riot. Then, with an air of
decision that puzzled everybody, he addressed the crowd, declaring
angrily, that since the Americans came the country had known no peace,
that robberies and crimes of every sort had increased, and ending by
expressing his determination to make strangers respect the laws of the
Republic, and to retain the prisoner; and if found guilty, punish him
as he deserved. The Americans seemed too astonished at the audacity of
the black man, who dared thus to beard them, to offer any resistance;
but I believe that the prisoner was allowed ultimately to escape.

I once had a narrow escape from the thieves of Cruces. I had been down
to Chagres for some stores, and returning, late in the evening, too
tired to put away my packages, had retired to rest at once. My little
maid, who was not so fatigued as I was, and slept more lightly, woke
me in the night to listen to a noise in the thatch, at the further end
of the store; but I was so accustomed to hear the half-starved mules
of Cruces munching my thatch, that I listened lazily for a few
minutes, and then went unsuspiciously into another heavy sleep. I do
not know how long it was before I was again awoke by the child's loud
screams and cries of "Hombro--landro;" and sure enough, by the light
of the dying fire, I saw a fellow stealing away with my dress, in the
pocket of which was my purse. I was about to rush forward, when the
fire gleamed on a villainous-looking knife in his hand; so I stood
still, and screamed loudly, hoping to arouse my brother over the way.
For a moment the thief seemed inclined to silence me, and had taken a
few steps forward, when I took up an old rusty horse-pistol which my
brother had given me that I might look determined, and snatching down
the can of ground coffee, proceeded to prime it, still screaming as
loudly as my strong lungs would permit, until the rascal turned tail
and stole away through the roof. The thieves usually buried their
spoil like dogs, as they were; but this fellow had only time to hide
it behind a bush, where it was found on the following morning, and
claimed by me.


[A] Mrs. Seacole very likely refers to Macbeth. But it was the witches
he abused.--Ed.



I remained at Cruces until the rainy months came to an end, and the
river grew too shallow to be navigable by the boats higher up than
Gorgona; and then we all made preparations for a flitting to that
place. But before starting, it appeared to be the custom for the store
and hotel keepers to exchange parting visits, and to many of these
parties I, in virtue of my recent services to the community, received
invitations. The most important social meeting took place on the
anniversary of the declaration of American independence, at my
brother's hotel, where a score of zealous Americans dined most
heartily--as they never fail to do; and, as it was an especial
occasion, drank champagne liberally at twelve shillings a bottle. And,
after the usual patriotic toasts had been duly honoured, they proposed
"the ladies," with an especial reference to myself, in a speech which
I thought worth noting down at the time. The spokesman was a thin,
sallow-looking American, with a pompous and yet rapid delivery, and a
habit of turning over his words with his quid before delivering them,
and clearing his mouth after each sentence, perhaps to make room for
the next. I shall beg the reader to consider that the blanks express
the time expended on this operation. He dashed into his work at once,
rolling up and getting rid of his sentences as he went on:--

"Well, gentlemen, I expect you'll all support me in a drinking of this
toast that I du----. Aunty Seacole, gentlemen; I give you, Aunty
Seacole----. We can't du less for her, after what she's done for
us----, when the cholera was among us, gentlemen----, not many months
ago----. So, I say, God bless the best yaller woman He ever made----,
from Jamaica, gentlemen----, from the Isle of Springs----Well,
gentlemen, I expect there are only tu things we're vexed for----; and
the first is, that she ain't one of us----, a citizen of the great
United States----; and the other thing is, gentlemen----, that
Providence made her a yaller woman. I calculate, gentlemen, you're all
as vexed as I am that she's not wholly white----, but I du reckon on
your rejoicing with me that she's so many shades removed from being
entirely black----; and I guess, if we could bleach her by any means
we would----, and thus make her as acceptable in any company as she
deserves to be----. Gentlemen, I give you Aunty Seacole!"

And so the orator sat down amidst much applause. It may be supposed
that I did not need much persuasion to return thanks, burning, as I
was, to tell them my mind on the subject of my colour. Indeed, if my
brother had not checked me, I should have given them my thoughts
somewhat too freely. As it was, I said:--

"Gentlemen,--I return you my best thanks for your kindness in drinking
my health. As for what I have done in Cruces, Providence evidently
made me to be useful, and I can't help it. But, I must say, that I
don't altogether appreciate your friend's kind wishes with respect to
my complexion. If it had been as dark as any nigger's, I should have
been just as happy and as useful, and as much respected by those whose
respect I value; and as to his offer of bleaching me, I should, even
if it were practicable, decline it without any thanks. As to the
society which the process might gain me admission into, all I can say
is, that, judging from the specimens I have met with here and
elsewhere, I don't think that I shall lose much by being excluded from
it. So, gentlemen, I drink to you and the general reformation of
American manners."

I do not think that they altogether admired my speech, but I was a
somewhat privileged person, and they laughed at it good-naturedly
enough. Perhaps (for I was not in the best humour myself) I should
have been better pleased if they had been angry.

Rightly, I ought to have gone down to Gorgona a few weeks before
Cruces was deserted, and secured an hotel; but I did not give up all
hope of persuading my brother to leave the Isthmus until the very last
moment, and then, of course, a suitable house was not to be hired in
Gorgona for love or money. Seeing his fixed determination to stay, I
consented to remain with him, for he was young and often ill, and set
hard to work to settle myself somewhere. With the aid of an old
Jamaica friend, who had settled at Gorgona, I at last found a
miserable little hut for sale, and bought it for a hundred dollars. It
consisted of one room only, and was, in its then condition, utterly
unfit for my purpose; but I determined to set to work and build on to
it--by no means the hazardous speculation in Gorgona, where bricks and
mortar are unknown, that it is in England. The alcalde's permission to
make use of the adjacent ground was obtained for a moderate
consideration, and plenty of material was procurable from the opposite
bank of the river. An American, whom I had cured of the cholera at
Cruces, lent me his boat, and I hired two or three natives to cut down
and shape the posts and bamboo poles. Directly these were raised, Mac
and my little maid set to work and filled up the spaces between them
with split bamboo canes and reeds, and before long my new hotel was
ready to be roofed. The building process was simple enough, and I soon
found myself in possession of a capital dining-room some thirty feet
in length, which was gaily hung with coloured calico, concealing all
defects of construction, and lighted with large oil lamps; a
store-room, bar, and a small private apartment for ladies. Altogether,
although I had to pay my labourers four shillings a day, the whole
building did not cost me more than my brother paid for three months'
rent of his hotel. I gave the travelling world to understand that I
intended to devote my establishment principally to the entertainment
of ladies, and the care of those who might fall ill on the route, and
I found the scheme answered admirably. And yet, although the speculation
paid well, I soon grew as weary of my life in Gorgona as I had been at
Cruces; and when I found my brother proof against all persuasion to
quit the Isthmus, I began to entertain serious thoughts of leaving

Nor was it altogether my old roving inclination which led me to desire
a change, although I dare say it had something to do with it. My
present life was not agreeable for a woman with the least delicacy or
refinement; and of female society I had none. Indeed, the females who
crossed my path were about as unpleasant specimens of the fair sex as
one could well wish to avoid. With very few exceptions, those who were
not bad were very disagreeable, and as the majority came from the
Southern States of America, and showed an instinctive repugnance
against any one whose countenance claimed for her kindred with their
slaves, my position was far from a pleasant one. Not that it ever gave
me any annoyance; they were glad of my stores and comforts, I made
money out of their wants; nor do I think our bond of connection was
ever closer; only this, if any of them came to me sick and suffering
(I say this out of simple justice to myself), I forgot everything,
except that she was my sister, and that it was my duty to help her.

I may have before said that the citizens of the New Granada Republic
had a strong prejudice against all Americans. It is not difficult to
assign a cause for this. In the first place, many of the negroes,
fugitive from the Southern States, had sought refuge in this and the
other States of Central America, where every profession was open to
them; and as they were generally superior men--evinced perhaps by
their hatred of their old condition and their successful flight--they
soon rose to positions of eminence in New Granada. In the priesthood,
in the army, in all municipal offices, the self-liberated negroes were
invariably found in the foremost rank; and the people, for some
reason--perhaps because they recognised in them superior talents for
administration--always respected them more than, and preferred them
to, their native rulers. So that, influenced naturally by these freed
slaves, who bore themselves before their old masters bravely and like
men, the New Granada people were strongly prejudiced against the
Americans. And in the second and third places, they feared their
quarrelsome, bullying habits--be it remembered that the crowds to
California were of the lowest sorts, many of whom have since
fertilised Cuban and Nicaraguan soil--and dreaded their schemes for
annexation. To such an extent was this amusingly carried, that when
the American Railway Company took possession of Navy Bay, and
christened it Aspinwall, after the name of their Chairman, the native
authorities refused to recognise their right to name any portion of
the Republic, and pertinaciously returned all letters directed to
Aspinwall, with "no such place known" marked upon them in the very
spot for which they were intended. And, in addition to this, the legal
authorities refused to compel any defendant to appear who was
described as of Aspinwall, and put every plaintiff out of court who
described himself as residing in that unrecognised place.

Under these circumstances, my readers can easily understand that when
any Americans crossed the Isthmus, accompanied by their slaves, the
Cruces and Gorgona people were restlessly anxious to whisper into
their ears offers of freedom and hints how easy escape would be. Nor
were the authorities at all inclined to aid in the recapture of a
runaway slave. So that, as it was necessary for the losers to go on
with the crowd, the fugitive invariably escaped. It is one of the
maxims of the New Granada constitution--as it is, I believe, of the
English--that on a slave touching its soil his chains fall from him.
Rather than irritate so dangerous a neighbour as America, this rule
was rarely supported; but I remember the following instance of its
successful application.

A young American woman, whose character can be best described by the
word "vicious," fell ill at Gorgona, and was left behind by her
companions under the charge of a young negro, her slave, whom she
treated most inhumanly, as was evinced by the poor girl's frequent
screams when under the lash. One night her cries were so distressing,
that Gorgona could stand it no longer, but broke into the house and
found the chattel bound hand and foot, naked, and being severely
lashed. Despite the threats and astonishment of the mistress, they
were both carried off on the following morning, before the alcalde,
himself a man of colour, and of a very humane disposition. When the
particulars of the case were laid before him, he became strongly
excited, and called upon the woman to offer an explanation of her
cruelty. She treated it with the coolest unconcern--"The girl was her
property, worth so many dollars, and a child at New Orleans; had
misbehaved herself, and been properly corrected. The alcalde must be
drunk or a fool, or both together, to interfere between an American
and her property." Her coolness vanished, however, when the alcalde
turned round to the girl and told her that she was free to leave her
mistress when she liked; and when she heard the irrepressible cheering
of the crowded court-hut at the alcalde's humanity and boldness, and
saw the slave's face flush with delight at the judge's words, she
became terribly enraged; made use of the most fearful threats, and
would have wreaked summary vengeance on her late chattel had not the
clumsy soldiery interfered. Then, with demoniac refinement of cruelty,
she bethought herself of the girl's baby at New Orleans still in her
power, and threatened most horrible torture to the child if its mother
dared to accept the alcalde's offer.

The poor girl trembled and covered her face with her hands, as though
to shut out some fearful sight, and, I think, had we not persuaded her
to the contrary, that she would have sacrificed her newly won freedom
for the child's sake. But we knew very well that when the heat of
passion had subsided, the threatener would be too 'cute to injure her
own property; and at once set afloat a subscription for the purchase
of the child. The issue of the tale I do not know, as the woman was
very properly removed into the interior of the country.

Life at Gorgona resembled life at Cruces so nearly that it does not
need a separate description. Down with the store and hotel keepers
came the muleteers and mules, porters and hangers-on, idlers and
thieves, gamblers and dancing women; and soon the monte-tables were
fitted up, and plying their deadly trade; and the dancers charmed the
susceptible travellers as successfully in the dirty streets of Gorgona
as they had previously done in the unwholesome precincts of Cruces.
And Dr. Casey was very nearly getting himself into serious trouble,
from too great a readiness to use his revolver. Still, he had a better
excuse for bloodshed this time than might have been found for his
previous breaches of the sixth commandment. Among the desperadoes who
frequented his gambling-hut, during their short stay in Gorgona, was
conceived the desperate plan of putting out the lights, and upsetting
Casey's table--trusting in the confusion to carry off the piles of
money upon it. The first part of their programme was successfully
carried out; but the second was frustrated by the Doctor promptly
firing his revolver into the dark, and hitting an unoffending boy in
the hip. And at this crisis the Gorgona police entered, carried off
all the parties they could lay hands upon (including the Doctor) to
prison, and brought the wounded boy to me.

On the following morning came a most urgent request that I would visit
the imprisoned Doctor. I found him desperately angry, but somewhat
nervous too, for the alcalde was known to be no friend to the
Americans, owed Casey more than one grudge, and had shown recently a
disposition to enforce the laws.

"I say, Mrs. Seacole, how's that ---- boy?"

"Oh, Dr. Casey, how could you shoot the poor lad, and now call him bad
names, as though he'd injured you? He is very ill indeed--may die; so
I advise you to think seriously of your position."

"But, Madame Seacole," (this in a very altered tone), "_you'll_ surely
help me? _you'll_ surely tell the alcalde that the wound's a slight
one? He's a friend of yours, and will let me out of this hole. Come,
Madame Seacole, you'll never leave me to be murdered by these
bloodthirsty savages?"

"What can I do or say, Dr. Casey? I must speak the truth, and the ball
is still in the poor lad's hip," I answered, for I enjoyed the
fellow's fear too much to help him. However, he sent some of his
friends to the boy's father, and bribed him to take the lad from my
care, and send him to Navy Bay, to a surgeon there. Of course, he
never returned to prosecute Dr. Casey; and he was left with the
alcalde only to deal with, who, although he hated the man, could not
resist his money, and so set him free.

Gorgona lying lower than Cruces, its inhabitants more frequently
enjoyed the excitement of a flood. After heavy rains, the river would
rise so rapidly that in a few hours the chief part of the place would
be under water. On such occasions the scene was unusually exciting. As
the water crept up the street, the frightened householders kept
removing their goods and furniture to higher ground; while here and
there, where the waters had surrounded them unawares, boats were sent
to their rescue. The houses, not made to resist much wind or water,
often gave way, and were carried down the Chagres. Meanwhile, the
thieves were the busiest--the honest folks, forgetting the true old
adage, "God helps those who help themselves," confining their
exertions to bringing down their favourite saints to the water's edge,
and invoking their interposition.

Fortunately my hotel was at the upper end of the town, where the
floods had been rarely known to extend; and although there was a
sufficient chance of the water reaching me to compel me to have all my
stores, etc., ready packed for removal, I escaped. Some distressing
losses occurred. A Frenchman, a near neighbour, whose house was
surrounded by the waters before he could remove his goods, grew so
frantic at the loss, that he obstinately refused to quit his falling
house; and some force had to be used before they could save his life.

Scarcely had the ravages of the last flood been repaired when fire
marked Gorgona for its prey. The conflagration began at a store by the
river-side; but it spread rapidly, and before long all Gorgona was in
danger. The town happened to be very full that night, two crowds
having met there, and there was great confusion; but at last the lazy
soldier-police, aided by the Americans, succeeded in pulling down some
old crazy huts, and checking the fire's progress. The travellers were
in sore plight, many of them being reduced to sleep upon their
luggage, piled in the drenched streets. My hotel had some interesting
inmates, for a poor young creature, borne in from one of the burning
houses, became a mother during the night; and a stout little lassie
opened its eyes upon this waesome world during the excitement and
danger of a Gorgona conflagration.

Shortly after this, tired to death of life in Panama, I handed over my
hotel to my brother, and returned to Kingston. On the way thither I
experienced another instance of American politeness, which I cannot
help recording; first reminding my readers of what I have previously
said of the character of the Californian travellers. Anxious to get
home quickly, I took my passage in the first steamer that left Navy
Bay--an American one; and late in the evening said farewell to the
friends I had been staying with, and went on board. A very kind
friend, an American merchant, doing a large business at Navy Bay, had
tried hard to persuade me to delay my journey until the English
company's steamer called; without, however, giving any good reasons
for his wish. So, with Mac and my little maid, I passed through the
crowd of female passengers on deck, and sought the privacy of the
saloon. Before I had been long there, two ladies came to me, and in
their cool, straightforward manner, questioned me.

"Where air you going?"

"To Kingston."

"And how air you going?"

"By sea."

"Don't be impertinent, yaller woman. By what conveyance air you

"By this steamer, of course. I've paid for my passage."

They went away with this information; and in a short time eight or
nine others came and surrounded me, asking the same questions. My
answers--and I was very particular--raised quite a storm of
uncomplimentary remarks.

"Guess a nigger woman don't go along with us in this saloon," said
one. "I never travelled with a nigger yet, and I expect I shan't begin
now," said another; while some children had taken my little servant
Mary in hand, and were practising on her the politenesses which their
parents were favouring me with--only, as is the wont of children, they
were crueller. I cannot help it if I shock my readers; but the _truth_
is, that one positively spat in poor little Mary's frightened yellow

At last an old American lady came to where I sat, and gave me some
staid advice. "Well, now, I tell you for your good, you'd better quit
this, and not drive my people to extremities. If you do, you'll be
sorry for it, I expect." Thus harassed, I appealed to the
stewardess--a tall sour-looking woman, flat and thin as a dressed-up
broomstick. She asked me sundry questions as to how and when I had
taken my passage; until, tired beyond all endurance, I said, "My good
woman, put me anywhere--under a boat--in your store-room, so that I
can get to Kingston somehow." But the stewardess was not to be moved.

"There's nowhere but the saloon, and you can't expect to stay with the
white people, that's clear. Flesh and blood can stand a good deal of
aggravation; but not that. If the Britishers is so took up with
coloured people, that's their business; but it won't do here."

This last remark was in answer to an Englishman, whose advice to me
was not to leave my seat for any of them. He made matters worse; until
at last I lost my temper, and calling Mac, bade him get my things
together, and went up to the captain--a good honest man. He and some
of the black crew and the black cook, who showed his teeth most
viciously, were much annoyed. Muttering about its being a custom of
the country, the captain gave me an order upon the agent for the money
I had paid; and so, at twelve o'clock at night, I was landed again
upon the wharf of Navy Bay.

My American friends were vastly annoyed, but not much surprised; and
two days later, the English steamer, the "Eagle," in charge of my old
friend, Captain B----, touched at Navy Bay, and carried me to



I stayed in Jamaica eight months out of the year 1853, still
remembered in the island for its suffering and gloom. I returned just
in time to find my services, with many others, needful; for the yellow
fever never made a more determined effort to exterminate the English
in Jamaica than it did in that dreadful year. So violent was the
epidemic, that some of my people fell victims to its fury, a thing
rarely heard of before. My house was full of sufferers--officers,
their wives and children. Very often they were borne in from the ships
in the harbour--sometimes in a dying state, sometimes--after long and
distressing struggles with the grim foe--to recover. Habituated as I
had become with death in its most harrowing forms, I found these
scenes more difficult to bear than any I had previously borne a part
in; and for this reason perhaps, that I had not only to cheer the
death-bed of the sufferer, but, far more trying task, to soothe the
passionate grief of wife or husband left behind. It was a terrible
thing to see young people in the youth and bloom of life suddenly
stricken down, not in battle with an enemy that threatened their
country, but in vain contest with a climate that refused to adopt
them. Indeed, the mother country pays a dear price for the possession
of her colonies.

I think all who are familiar with the West Indies will acknowledge
that Nature has been favourable to strangers in a few respects, and
that one of these has been in instilling into the hearts of the
Creoles an affection for English people and an anxiety for their
welfare, which shows itself warmest when they are sick and suffering.
I can safely appeal on this point to any one who is acquainted with
life in Jamaica. Another benefit has been conferred upon them by
inclining the Creoles to practise the healing art, and inducing them
to seek out the simple remedies which are available for the terrible
diseases by which foreigners are attacked, and which are found growing
under the same circumstances which produce the ills they minister to.
So true is it that beside the nettle ever grows the cure for its

I do not willingly care to dwell upon scenes of suffering and death,
but it is with such scenes that my life's experience has made me most
familiar, and it is impossible to avoid their description now and
then; and here I would fain record, in humble spirit, my conclusions,
drawn from the bearing of those whom I have now and then accompanied a
little distance on their way into the Valley of the Shadow of Death,
on the awful and important question of religious feeling. Death is
always terrible--no one need be ashamed to fear it. How we bear it
depends much upon our constitutions. I have seen some brave men, who
have smiled at the cruellest amputation, die trembling like children;
while others, whose lives have been spent in avoidance of the least
danger or trouble, have drawn their last painful breath like heroes,
striking at their foe to the last, robbing him of his victory, and
making their defeat a triumph. But I cannot trace _all_ the peace and
resignation which I have witnessed on many death-beds to temperament
alone, although I believe it has much more to do with them than many
teachers will allow. I have stood by receiving the last blessings of
Christians; and closing the eyes of those who had nothing to trust to
but the mercy of a God who will be far more merciful to us than we are
to one another; and I say decidedly that the Christian's death is the
glorious one, as is his life. You can never find a good man who is not
a worker; he is no laggard in the race of life. Three, two, or one
score years of life have been to him a season of labour in his
appointed sphere; and as the work of the hands earns for us sweet rest
by night, so does the heart's labour of a lifetime make the repose of
heaven acceptable. This is my experience; and I remember one death, of
a man whom I grew to love in a few short weeks, the thought of which
stirs my heart now, and has sustained me in seasons of great danger;
for before that time, if I had never feared death, I had not learnt to
meet him with a brave, smiling face, and this he taught me.

I must not tell you his name, for his friends live yet, and have been
kind to me in many ways. One of them we shall meet on Crimean soil. He
was a young surgeon, and as busy, light-hearted, and joyous as a good
man should be; and when he fell ill they brought him to my house,
where I nursed him, and grew fond of him--almost as fond as the poor
lady his mother in England far away. For some time we thought him
safe, but at last the most terrible symptoms of the cruel disease
showed themselves, and he knew that he must die. His thoughts were
never for himself, but for those he had to leave behind; all his pity
was for them. It was trying to see his poor hands tremblingly penning
the last few words of leave-taking--trying to see how piteously the
poor worn heart longed to see once more the old familiar faces of the
loved ones in unconscious happiness at home; and yet I had to support
him while this sad task was effected, and to give him all the help I
could. I think he had some fondness for me, or, perhaps, his kind
heart feigned a feeling that he saw would give me joy; for I used to
call him "My son--my dear child," and to weep over him in a very weak
and silly manner perhaps.

He sent for an old friend, Captain S----; and when he came, I had to
listen to the dictation of his simple will--his dog to one friend, his
ring to another, his books to a third, his love and kind wishes to
all; and that over, my poor son prepared himself to die--a child in
all save a man's calm courage. He beckoned me to raise him in the bed,
and, as I passed my arms around him, he saw the tears I could not
repress, rolling down my brown cheeks, and thanked me with a few
words. "Let me lay my head upon your breast;" and so he rested, now
and then speaking lowly to himself, "It's only that I miss my mother;
but Heaven's will be done." He repeated this many times, until the
Heaven he obeyed sent him in its mercy forgetfulness, and his thoughts
no longer wandered to his earthly home. I heard glad words feebly
uttered as I bent over him--words about "Heaven--rest--rest"--a holy
Name many times repeated; and then with a smile and a stronger voice,
"Home! home!" And so in a little while my arms no longer held him.

I have a little gold brooch with his hair in it now. I wonder what
inducement could be strong enough to cause me to part with that
memorial, sent me by his mother some months later, with the following

    "My dear Madam,--Will you do me the favour to accept the
    enclosed trifle, in remembrance of that dear son whose
    last moments were soothed by your kindness, and as a
    mark of the gratitude of, my dear Madam,

        "Your ever sincere and obliged,

            "M---- S----."

After this, I was sent for by the medical authorities to provide
nurses for the sick at Up-Park Camp, about a mile from Kingston; and
leaving some nurses and my sister at home, I went there and did my
best; but it was little we could do to mitigate the severity of the

About eight months after my return to Jamaica, it became necessary
that some one should go to the Isthmus of Panama to wind up the
affairs of my late hotel; and having another fit of restlessness, I
prepared to return there myself. I found Navy Bay but little altered.
It was evening when I arrived there; and my friend Mr. H----, who came
to meet me on the wharf, carefully piloted me through the wretched
streets, giving me especial warning not to stumble over what looked
like three long boxes, loosely covered with the _débris_ of a fallen
house. They had such a peculiar look about them that I stopped to ask
what they were, receiving an answer which revived all my former
memories of Darien life, "Oh, they're only three Irishmen killed in a
row a week ago, whom it's nobody's business to bury."

I went to Gorgona, wound up the affairs of the hotel, and, before
returning to Navy Bay, took the occasion of accompanying my brother to
the town of Panama. We did not go with the crowd, but rode alone on
mules, taking with us three native guides on foot; and although the
distance was not much over twenty miles, and we started at daybreak,
we did not reach Panama until nightfall. But far from being surprised
at this, my chief wonder was that we ever succeeded in getting over
the journey. Through sand and mud, over hill and plain--through thick
forests, deep gulleys, and over rapid streams, ran the track; the road
sometimes being made of logs of wood laid transversely, with faggots
stuffed between; while here and there we had to work our way through a
tangled network of brushwood, and over broken rocks that seemed to
have been piled together as stones for some giant's sling. We found
Panama an old-fashioned, irregular town, with queer stone houses,
almost all of which had been turned by the traders into stores.

On my return to Navy Bay--or Colon, as the New Granadans would have it
called--I again opened a store, and stayed there for three months or
so. I did not find that society had improved much in my absence;
indeed, it appeared to have grown more lawless. Endless quarrels,
often resulting in bloodshed, took place between the strangers and the
natives, and disturbed the peace of the town. Once the Spanish were
incensed to such an extent, that they planned a general rising against
the foreigners; and but for the opportune arrival of an English
war-steamer, the consequences might have been terrible. The Americans
were well armed and ready; but the native population far outnumbered

Altogether, I was not sorry when an opportunity offered itself to do
something at one of the stations of the New Granada Gold-mining
Company, Escribanos, about seventy miles from Navy Bay. I made the
journey there in a little vessel, all communication by land from Navy
Bay being impossible, on account of the thick, dense forests, that
would have resisted the attempts of an army to cut its way through
them. As I was at this place for some months altogether, and as it was
the only portion of my life devoted to gold-seeking, I shall make no
apologies for endeavouring to describe the out-of-the-way village-life
of New Granada.

Escribanos is in the province of Veraguas, in the State of New
Granada--information uninteresting enough, I have little doubt, to all
but a very few of my readers. It lies near the mouth of a rivulet
bearing that name, which, leaving the river Belen, runs away to the
sea on its own account, about a mile from the mouth of that river. It
is a great neighbourhood for gold-mines; and about that time companies
and private individuals were trying hard to turn them to good account.
Near it is the Fort Bowen mine, and several others; some yielding
silver, others gold ore, in small quantities. Others lie in the
vicinity of the Palmilla--another river, which discharges itself into
the sea about ten miles from Escribanos; and there were more eastward
of it, near a similar river, the Coquelet. Legends were rife at that
time, and they may be revived at no distant date, of the treasures to
be found at Cucuyo, Zapetero, Pananomé, and many other Indian
villages on their banks, which in times gone by had yielded up golden
treasures to the Old World. But at this time the yield of gold did not
repay the labour and capital necessary to extract it from the quartz;
and it can only prove successful if more economical methods can be
discovered than those now used for that purpose.

Carlos Alexander, the alcalde of Escribanos, had made a good thing out
of the gold mania. The mine had belonged to him; had been sold at a
fine price, and, passing through several hands, had at last come into
possession of the Company who were now working it; its former owner
settling down as ruler over the little community of two hundred souls
that had collected at Escribanos. He was a black man; was fond of
talking of his early life in slavery, and how he had escaped; and
possessed no ordinary intellect. He possessed, also, a house, which in
England a well-bred hound would not have accepted as a kennel; a white
wife, and a pretty daughter, with a whity-brown complexion and a
pleasant name--Juliana.

Of this mine Mr. Day--by whose invitation, when I saw him at Navy Bay,
I went there--was at that time superintendent. He was a distant
connection of my late husband, and treated me with great kindness.
Strangely enough, we met again in a far different part of the world,
and became more closely connected. But I am anticipating.

The major part of the population of Escribanos, including even the
women and children, worked at the mine. The labour was hard and
disagreeable. I often used to watch them at their work; and would
sometimes wander about by myself, thinking it possible that I might
tumble across some gold in my rambles. And I once did come upon some
heavy yellow material, that brought my heart into my mouth with that
strange thrilling delight which all who have hunted for the precious
metal understand so well. I think it was very wrong; but I kept the
secret of the place from the alcalde and every one else, and filled
some bottles with the precious dust, to carry down to Navy Bay. I did
not go for some time; but when I did, one of my first visits was to a
gold-buyer; and you can imagine my feelings when he coolly laughed,
and told me it was some material (I forget its name) very like gold,
but--valueless. The worst part of it was that, in my annoyance and
shame, I threw all I had away, and among it some which I had reason to
believe subsequently was genuine.

The landing at Escribanos was very difficult, and when the surf ran
high, impossible; and I was once witness to a harrowing scene there. A
little boat, manned by three sailors, grounded on a rock not far from
shore, at a terrible season, when to reach it from the land was, after
many attempts, found impossible. The hapless crew lingered on for two
days, suffering cruelly from hunger and thirst, their cries ringing in
our ears above the storm's pitiless fury. On the third day, two of
them took to the sea, and were drowned; the third was not strong
enough to leave the boat, and died in it.

I did not stay long at Escribanos, on my first visit, as the alcalde's
guest; but, having made arrangements for a longer sojourn, I went back
to Navy Bay, where I laid in a good stock of the stores I should have
most use for, and returned to Escribanos in safety. I remained there
some months, pleased with the novelty of the life, and busy with
schemes for seeking for--or, as the gold-diggers call it, prospecting
for--other mines.

The foreigners were just as troublesome in this little out-of-the-way
place as they were, and are, in every other part of Central America;
and quarrels were as frequent in our little community as at Cruces or
Navy Bay. Indeed, Alexander had hard work to maintain peace in his
small kingdom; and although ably seconded by Mr. Day, more than once
American disregard of his sway was almost too strong for him. Very
often the few foreigners would quarrel among themselves; and once when
they came to blows, and an Irishman was stabbed by an American named
Campfield, the alcalde roused himself to punish the culprit. The
native population were glad enough to have an American in their power;
and when I heard Alexander give his men instructions to shoot the
culprit if he resisted, I started off to his hut, and reached it in
time to prevent bloodshed. He was taken and kept in confinement; and
soft-hearted Juliana and I had enough to do to prevent his being made
a stern example of. But we got him off for a fine of five hundred

Again the little community of Escribanos was very near getting up a
revolution against its constituted government--a very common amusement
in Central America. Twelve sailors, deserters from an American ship,
found their way there, and before long plotted to dethrone Alexander,
and take possession of the mine. Mr. Day gained information of their
plan. The whole population of Escribanos were roused and warned; and
arming a score of the boldest natives, he surrounded the house in
which they were, and captured the conspirators, who were too much
taken by surprise to offer resistance, and sent them down to Navy
Bay, there to be handed over to the Government whose service they had

Of course, my medical skill did not rust for want of practice at
Escribanos. The place was not healthy, and strangers to the climate
suffered severely. A surgeon himself, sent there by the West Granada
Gold-mining Company, was glad to throw _his_ physic to the dogs, and
be cured in my way by mine; while I was fortunately able to nurse Mr.
Day through a sharp attack of illness.

In consequence of the difficulty of communication with Navy Bay, our
fare was of the simplest at Escribanos. It consisted mainly of salt
meat, rice, and roasted Indian corn. The native fare was not tempting,
and some of their delicacies were absolutely disgusting. With what
pleasure, for instance, could one foreign to their tastes and habits
dine off a roasted monkey, whose grilled head bore a strong
resemblance to a negro baby's? And yet the Indians used to bring them
to us for sale, strung on a stick. They were worse still stewed in
soup, when it was positively frightful to dip your ladle in
unsuspectingly, and bring up what closely resembled a brown baby's
limb. I got on better with the parrots, and could agree with the
"senorita, buono buono" with which the natives recommended them; and
yet their flesh, what little there was of it, was very coarse and
hard. Nor did I always refuse to concede praise to a squirrel, if well
cooked. But although the flesh of the iguana--another favourite
dish--was white and tender as any chicken, I never could stomach it.
These iguanas are immense green lizards, or rather moderate-sized
crocodiles, sometimes three feet in length, but weighing generally
about seven or eight pounds. The Indians used to bring them down in
boats, alive, on their backs, with their legs tied behind them; so
that they had the most comical look of distress it is possible to
imagine. The Spanish Indians have a proverb referring to an iguana so
bound, the purport of which has slipped from my memory, but which
shows the habit to be an old one. Their eggs are highly prized, and
their captors have a cruel habit of extracting these delicacies from
them while alive, and roughly sewing up the wound, which I never could
muster sufficient courage to witness.

The rivers near Escribanos were well stocked with crocodiles, the sea
had its fair share of sharks, while on land you too often met with
snakes and other venomous reptiles. The sting of some of them was very
dangerous. One man, who was bitten when I was there, swelled to an
enormous size, and bled even at the roots of his hair. The remedy of
the natives appeared to be copious bleeding.

Before I left Escribanos I made a journey, in company with a gentleman
named Little, my maid, and the alcalde's daughter, into the interior
of the country, for a short distance, following the course of the
Palmilla river. This was for the purpose of prospecting a mine on that
river, said to be obtainable at an easy price. Its course was a very
winding one; and we often had to leave the canoe and walk through the
shallow waters, that every now and then interfered with our progress.
As we progressed, Little carefully sounded the channel of the river,
with the view of ascertaining to what extent it was navigable.

The tropical scenery was very grand; but I am afraid I only marked
what was most curious in it--at least, that is foremost in my memory
now. I know I wondered much what motive Nature could have had in
twisting the roots and branches of the trees into such strange
fantastic contortions. I watched with unfailing interest the birds and
animals we disturbed in our progress, from the huge peccary or wild
boar, that went tearing through the brushwood, to the tiniest
bright-hued bird that dashed like a flash of many-coloured fire before
our eyes. And very much surprised was I when the Indians stopped
before a large tree, and on their making an incision in the bark with
a matcheto (hatchet), there exuded a thick creamy liquid, which they
wished me to taste, saying that this was the famous milk-tree. I
needed some persuasion at first; but when I had tasted some upon a
biscuit, I was so charmed with its flavour that I should soon have
taken more than was good for me had not Mr. Little interfered with
some judicious advice. We reached the mine, and brought back specimens
of the quartz, some of which I have now.

Soon after this I left Escribanos, and stopping but a short time at
Navy Bay, came on direct to England. I had claims on a Mining Company
which are still unsatisfied; I had to look after my share in the
Palmilla Mine speculation; and, above all, I had long been troubled
with a secret desire to embark in a very novel speculation, about
which I have as yet said nothing to the reader. But before I finally
leave the republic of New Granada, I may be allowed to write a few
words on the present aspect of affairs on the Isthmus of Panama.

Recent news from America bring the intelligence that the Government of
the United States has at length succeeded in finding a reasonable
excuse for exercising a protectorate over, or in other words
annexing, the Isthmus of Panama. To any one at all acquainted with
American policy in Central America, this intelligence can give no
surprise; our only wonder being that some such excuse was not made
years ago. At this crisis, then, a few remarks from the humblest
observer of life in the republic of New Granada must possess some
interest for the curious, if not value.

I found something to admire in the people of New Granada, but not
much; and I found very much more to condemn most unequivocally.
Whatever was of any worth in their institutions, such as their
comparative freedom, religious toleration, etc., was owing mainly to
the negroes who had sought the protection of the republic. I found the
Spanish Indians treacherous, passionate, and indolent, with no higher
aim or object but simply to enjoy the present after their own torpid,
useless fashion. Like most fallen nations, they are very conservative
in their habits and principles; while the blacks are enterprising, and
in their opinions incline not unnaturally to democracy. But for their
old antipathy, there is no doubt that the negroes would lean towards
America; but they gladly encourage the prejudice of the New Granadans,
and foster it in every way. Hence the ceaseless quarrels which have
disturbed Chagres and Panama, until it has become necessary for an
American force to garrison those towns. For humanity and
civilization's sake, there can be little doubt as to the expediency of
this step; but I should not be at all surprised to hear that the
republic was preparing to make some show of resistance against its
powerful brother; for, as the reader will have perceived, the New
Granadans' experiences of American manners have not been favourable;
and they do not know, as we do, how little real sympathy the
Government of the United States has with the extreme class of its
citizens who have made themselves so conspicuous in the great
high-road to California.



Before I left Jamaica for Navy Bay, as narrated in the last chapter,
war had been declared against Russia, and we were all anxiously
expecting news of a descent upon the Crimea. Now, no sooner had I
heard of war somewhere, than I longed to witness it; and when I was
told that many of the regiments I had known so well in Jamaica had
left England for the scene of action, the desire to join them became
stronger than ever. I used to stand for hours in silent thought before
an old map of the world, in a little corner of which some one had
chalked a red cross, to enable me to distinguish where the Crimea was;
and as I traced the route thither, all difficulties would vanish. But
when I came to talk over the project with my friends, the best scheme
I could devise seemed so wild and improbable, that I was fain to
resign my hopes for a time, and so started for Navy Bay.

But all the way to England, from Navy Bay, I was turning my old wish
over and over in my mind; and when I found myself in London, in the
autumn of 1854, just after the battle of Alma had been fought, and my
old friends were fairly before the walls of Sebastopol, how to join
them there took up far more of my thoughts than that visionary
gold-mining speculation on the river Palmilla, which seemed so
feasible to us in New Granada, but was considered so wild and
unprofitable a speculation in London. And, as time wore on, the
inclination to join my old friends of the 97th, 48th, and other
regiments, battling with worse foes than yellow fever or cholera, took
such exclusive possession of my mind, that I threw over the gold
speculation altogether, and devoted all my energies to my new scheme.

Heaven knows it was visionary enough! I had no friends who could help
me in such a project--nay, who would understand why I desired to go,
and what I desired to do when I got there. My funds, although they
might, carefully husbanded, carry me over the three thousand miles,
and land me at Balaclava, would not support me there long; while to
persuade the public that an unknown Creole woman would be useful to
their army before Sebastopol was too improbable an achievement to be
thought of for an instant. Circumstances, however, assisted me.

As the winter wore on, came hints from various quarters of
mismanagement, want, and suffering in the Crimea; and after the
battles of Balaclava and Inkermann, and the fearful storm of the 14th
of November, the worst anticipations were realized. Then we knew that
the hospitals were full to suffocation, that scarcity and exposure
were the fate of all in the camp, and that the brave fellows for whom
any of us at home would have split our last shilling, and shared our
last meal, were dying thousands of miles away from the active sympathy
of their fellow-countrymen. Fast and thick upon the news of Inkermann,
fought by a handful of fasting and enfeebled men against eight times
their number of picked Russians, brought fresh and animated to the
contest, and while all England was reeling beneath the shock of that
fearful victory, came the sad news that hundreds were dying whom the
Russian shot and sword had spared, and that the hospitals of Scutari
were utterly unable to shelter, or their inadequate staff to attend
to, the ship-loads of sick and wounded which were sent to them across
the stormy Black Sea.

But directly England knew the worst, she set about repairing her past
neglect. In every household busy fingers were working for the poor
soldier--money flowed in golden streams wherever need was--and
Christian ladies, mindful of the sublime example, "I was sick, and ye
visited me," hastened to volunteer their services by those sick-beds
which only women know how to soothe and bless.

Need I be ashamed to confess that I shared in the general enthusiasm,
and longed more than ever to carry my busy (and the reader will not
hesitate to add experienced) fingers where the sword or bullet had
been busiest, and pestilence most rife. I had seen much of sorrow and
death elsewhere, but they had never daunted me; and if I could feel
happy binding up the wounds of quarrelsome Americans and treacherous
Spaniards, what delight should I not experience if I could be useful
to my own "sons," suffering for a cause it was so glorious to fight
and bleed for! I never stayed to discuss probabilities, or enter into
conjectures as to my chances of reaching the scene of action. I made
up my mind that if the army wanted nurses, they would be glad of me,
and with all the ardour of my nature, which ever carried me where
inclination prompted, I decided that I _would_ go to the Crimea; and
go I did, as all the world knows.

Of course, had it not been for my old strong-mindedness (which has
nothing to do with obstinacy, and is in no way related to it--the best
term I can think of to express it being "judicious decisiveness"), I
should have given up the scheme a score of times in as many days; so
regularly did each successive day give birth to a fresh set of rebuffs
and disappointments. I shall make no excuse to my readers for giving
them a pretty full history of my struggles to become a Crimean

My first idea (and knowing that I was well fitted for the work, and
would be the right woman in the right place, the reader can fancy my
audacity) was to apply to the War Office for the post of hospital
nurse. Among the diseases which I understood were most prevalent in
the Crimea were cholera, diarrhoea, and dysentery, all of them more
or less known in tropical climates; and with which, as the reader will
remember, my Panama experience had made me tolerably familiar. Now, no
one will accuse me of presumption, if I say that I thought (and so it
afterwards proved) that my knowledge of these human ills would not
only render my services as a nurse more valuable, but would enable me
to be of use to the overworked doctors. That others thought so too, I
took with me ample testimony. I cannot resist the temptation of
giving my readers one of the testimonials I had, it seems so eminently
practical and to the point:--

    "I became acquainted with Mrs. Seacole through the
    instrumentality of T. B. Cowan, Esq., H. B. M. Consul at
    Colon, on the Isthmus of Panama, and have had many
    opportunities of witnessing her professional zeal and
    ability in the treatment of aggravated forms of tropical

    "I am myself personally much indebted for her
    indefatigable kindness and skill at a time when I am apt
    to believe the advice of a practitioner qualified in the
    North would have little availed.

    "Her peculiar fitness, in a constitutional point of
    view, for the duties of a medical attendant, needs no

        (Signed) "A. G. M.,

            "Late Medical Officer, West Granada
                Gold-mining Company."

So I made long and unwearied application at the War Office, in
blissful ignorance of the labour and time I was throwing away. I have
reason to believe that I considerably interfered with the repose of
sundry messengers, and disturbed, to an alarming degree, the official
gravity of some nice gentlemanly young fellows, who were working out
their salaries in an easy, off-hand way. But my ridiculous endeavours
to gain an interview with the Secretary-at-War of course failed, and
glad at last to oblige a distracted messenger, I transferred my
attentions to the Quartermaster-General's department. Here I saw
another gentleman, who listened to me with a great deal of polite
enjoyment, and--his amusement ended--hinted, had I not better apply
to the Medical Department; and accordingly I attached myself to their
quarters with the same unwearying ardour. But, of course, I grew tired
at last, and then I changed my plans.

Now, I am not for a single instant going to blame the authorities who
would not listen to the offer of a motherly yellow woman to go to the
Crimea and nurse her "sons" there, suffering from cholera,
diarrhoea, and a host of lesser ills. In my country, where people
know our use, it would have been different; but here it was natural
enough--although I had references, and other voices spoke for me--that
they should laugh, good-naturedly enough, at my offer. War, I know, is
a serious game, but sometimes very humble actors are of great use in
it, and if the reader, when he comes in time to peruse the evidence of
those who had to do with the Sebastopol drama, of my share in it, will
turn back to this chapter, he will confess perhaps that, after all,
the impulse which led me to the War Department was not unnatural.

My new scheme was, I candidly confess, worse devised than the one
which had failed. Miss Nightingale had left England for the Crimea,
but other nurses were still to follow, and my new plan was simply to
offer myself to Mrs. H---- as a recruit. Feeling that I was one of the
very women they most wanted, experienced and fond of the work, I
jumped at once to the conclusion that they would gladly enrol me in
their number. To go to Cox's, the army agents, who were most obliging
to me, and obtain the Secretary-at-War's private address, did not take
long; and that done, I laid the same pertinacious siege to his great
house in ---- Square, as I had previously done to his place of

Many a long hour did I wait in his great hall, while scores passed in
and out; many of them looking curiously at me. The flunkeys, noble
creatures! marvelled exceedingly at the yellow woman whom no excuses
could get rid of, nor impertinence dismay, and showed me very clearly
that they resented my persisting in remaining there in mute appeal
from their sovereign will. At last I gave that up, after a message
from Mrs. H. that the full complement of nurses had been secured, and
that my offer could not be entertained. Once again I tried, and had an
interview this time with one of Miss Nightingale's companions. She
gave me the same reply, and I read in her face the fact, that had
there been a vacancy, I should not have been chosen to fill it.

As a last resort, I applied to the managers of the Crimean Fund to
know whether they would give me a passage to the camp--once there I
would trust to something turning up. But this failed also, and one
cold evening I stood in the twilight, which was fast deepening into
wintry night, and looked back upon the ruins of my last castle in the
air. The disappointment seemed a cruel one. I was so conscious of the
unselfishness of the motives which induced me to leave England--so
certain of the service I could render among the sick soldiery, and yet
I found it so difficult to convince others of these facts. Doubts and
suspicions arose in my heart for the first and last time, thank
Heaven. Was it possible that American prejudices against colour had
some root here? Did these ladies shrink from accepting my aid because
my blood flowed beneath a somewhat duskier skin than theirs? Tears
streamed down my foolish cheeks, as I stood in the fast thinning
streets; tears of grief that any should doubt my motives--that Heaven
should deny me the opportunity that I sought. Then I stood still, and
looking upward through and through the dark clouds that shadowed
London, prayed aloud for help. I dare say that I was a strange sight
to the few passers-by, who hastened homeward through the gloom and
mist of that wintry night. I dare say those who read these pages will
wonder at me as much as they who saw me did; but you must all remember
that I am one of an impulsive people, and find it hard to put that
restraint upon my feelings which to you is so easy and natural.

The morrow, however, brought fresh hope. A good night's rest had
served to strengthen my determination. Let what might happen, to the
Crimea I would go. If in no other way, then would I upon my own
responsibility and at my own cost. There were those there who had
known me in Jamaica, who had been under my care; doctors who would
vouch for my skill and willingness to aid them, and a general who had
more than once helped me, and would do so still. Why not trust to
their welcome and kindness, and start at once? If the authorities had
allowed me, I would willingly have given them my services as a nurse;
but as they declined them, should I not open an hotel for invalids in
the Crimea in my own way? I had no more idea of what the Crimea was
than the home authorities themselves perhaps, but having once made up
my mind, it was not long before cards were printed and speeding across
the Mediterranean to my friends before Sebastopol. Here is one of

        Mrs. Mary Seacole
        (_Late of Kingston, Jamaica_),

      Respectfully announces to her former kind friends,
      and to the Officers of the Army and Navy generally,

    That she has taken her passage in the screw-steamer
    "Hollander," to start from London on the 25th of
    January, intending on her arrival at Balaclava to
    establish a mess table and comfortable quarters for sick
    and convalescent officers."

This bold programme would reach the Crimea in the end of January, at a
time when any officer would have considered a stall in an English
stable luxurious quarters compared to those he possessed, and had
nearly forgotten the comforts of a mess-table. It must have read to
them rather like a mockery, and yet, as the reader will see, I
succeeded in redeeming my pledge.

While this new scheme was maturing, I again met Mr. Day in England. He
was bound to Balaclava upon some shipping business, and we came to the
understanding that (if it were found desirable) we should together
open a store as well as an hotel in the neighbourhood of the camp. So
was originated the well-known firm of Seacole and Day (I am sorry to
say, the camp wits dubbed it Day and Martin), which, for so many
months, did business upon the now deserted high-road from the then
busy harbour of Balaclava to the front of the British army before

These new arrangements were not allowed to interfere in any way with
the main object of my journey. A great portion of my limited capital
was, with the kind aid of a medical friend, invested in medicines
which I had reason to believe would be useful; with the remainder I
purchased those home comforts which I thought would be most difficult
to obtain away from England.

I had scarcely set my foot on board the "Hollander," before I met a
friend. The supercargo was the brother of the Mr. S----, whose death
in Jamaica the reader will not have forgotten, and he gave me a hearty
welcome. I thought the meeting augured well, and when I told him my
plans he gave me the most cheering encouragement. I was glad, indeed,
of any support, for, beyond all doubt, my project was a hazardous one.

So cheered at the outset, I watched without a pang the shores of
England sink behind the smooth sea, and turned my gaze hopefully to
the as yet landless horizon, beyond which lay that little peninsula to
which the eyes and hearts of all England were so earnestly directed.

So, cheerily! the good ship ploughed its way eastward ho! for Turkey.



I am not going to risk the danger of wearying the reader with a long
account of the voyage to Constantinople, already worn threadbare by
book-making tourists. It was a very interesting one, and, as I am a
good sailor, I had not even the temporary horrors of sea-sickness to
mar it. The weather, although cold, was fine, and the sea
good-humouredly calm, and I enjoyed the voyage amazingly. And as day
by day we drew nearer to the scene of action, my doubts of success
grew less and less, until I had a conviction of the rightness of the
step I had taken, which would have carried me buoyantly through any

On the way, of course, I was called up from my berth at an
unreasonable hour to gaze upon the Cape of St. Vincent, and expected
to feel duly impressed when the long bay where Trafalgar's fight was
won came in view, with the white convent walls on the cliffs above
bathed in the early sunlight. I never failed to take an almost
childish interest in the signals which passed between the "Hollander"
and the fleet of vessels whose sails whitened the track to and from
the Crimea, trying to puzzle out the language these children of the
ocean spoke in their hurried course, and wondering whether any, or
what sufficiently important thing _could_ happen which would warrant
their stopping on their busy way.

We spent a short time at Gibraltar, and you may imagine that I was
soon on shore making the best use of the few hours' reprieve granted
to the "Hollander's" weary engines. I had an idea that I should do
better alone, so I declined all offers of companionship, and selecting
a brisk young fellow from the mob of cicerones who offered their
services, saw more of the art of fortification in an hour or so than I
could understand in as many years. The pleasure was rather fatiguing,
and I was not sorry to return to the market-place, where I stood
curiously watching its strange and motley population. While so
engaged, I heard for the first time an exclamation which became
familiar enough to me afterwards.

"Why, bless my soul, old fellow, if this is not our good old Mother
Seacole!" I turned round, and saw two officers, whose features, set in
a broad frame of Crimean beard, I had some difficulty in recognising.
But I soon remembered that they were two of the 48th, who had been
often in my house at Kingston. Glad were the kind-hearted fellows, and
not a little surprised withal, to meet their old hostess in the
market-place of Gibraltar, bound for the scene of action which they
had left invalided; and it was not long before we were talking old
times over some wine--Spanish, I suppose--but it was very nasty.

"And you are going to the front, old lady--you, of all people in the

"Why not, my sons?--won't they be glad to have me there?"

"By Jove! yes, mother," answered one, an Irishman. "It isn't many
women--God bless them!--we've had to spoil us out there. But it's not
the place even for you, who know what hardship is. You'll never get a
roof to cover you at Balaclava, nor on the road either." So they
rattled on, telling me of the difficulties that were in store for me.
But they could not shake my resolution.

"Do you think I shall be of any use to you when I get there?"


"Then I'll go, were the place a hundred times worse than you describe
it. Can't I rig up a hut with the packing-cases, and sleep, if need
be, on straw, like Margery Daw?"

So they laughed, and drank success to me, and to our next meeting;
for, although they were going home invalided, the brave fellows'
hearts were with their companions, for all the hardships they had
passed through.

We stopped at Malta also, where, of course, I landed, and stared about
me, and submitted to be robbed by the lazy Maltese with all a
traveller's resignation. Here, also, I met friends--some medical
officers who had known me in Kingston; and one of them, Dr. F----,
lately arrived from Scutari, gave me, when he heard my plans, a letter
of introduction to Miss Nightingale, then hard at work, evoking order
out of confusion, and bravely resisting the despotism of death, at the
hospital of Scutari.

So on, past beautiful islands and shores, until we are steaming
against a swift current, and an adverse wind, between two
tower-crested promontories of rock, which they tell me stand in Europe
and in Asia, and are connected with some pretty tale of love in days
long gone by. Ah! travel where a woman may, in the New World, or the
Old, she meets this old, old tale everywhere. It is the one bond of
sympathy which I have found existing in three quarters of the world
alike. So on, until the cable rattles over the windlass, as the good
ship's anchor plunges down fathoms deep into the blue waters of the
Bosphorus--her voyage ended.

I do not think that Constantinople impressed me so much as I had
expected; and I thought its streets would match those of Navy Bay not
unfairly. The caicques, also, of which I had ample experience--for I
spent six days here, wandering about Pera and Stamboul in the daytime,
and returning to the "Hollander" at nightfall--might be made more
safe and commodious for stout ladies, even if the process interfered a
little with their ornament. Time and trouble combined have left me
with a well-filled-out, portly form--the envy of many an angular
Yankee female--and, more than once, it was in no slight danger of
becoming too intimately acquainted with the temperature of the
Bosphorus. But I will do the Turkish boatmen the justice to say that
they were as politely careful of my safety as their astonishment and
regard for the well-being of their caicques (which they appear to love
as an Arab does his horse, or an Esquimaux his dogs, and for the same
reason perhaps) would admit. Somewhat surprised, also, seemed the
cunning-eyed Greeks, who throng the streets of Pera, at the
unprotected Creole woman, who took Constantinople so coolly (it would
require something more to surprise her); while the grave English
raised their eyebrows wonderingly, and the more vivacious French
shrugged their pliant shoulders into the strangest contortions. I
accepted it all as a compliment to a stout female tourist, neatly
dressed in a red or yellow dress, a plain shawl of some other colour,
and a simple straw wide-awake, with bright red streamers. I flatter
myself that I woke up sundry sleepy-eyed Turks, who seemed to think
that the great object of life was to avoid showing surprise at
anything; while the Turkish women gathered around me, and jabbered
about me, in the most flattering manner.

How I ever succeeded in getting Mr. Day's letters from the
Post-office, Constantinople, puzzles me now; but I did--and I shall
ever regard my success as one of the great triumphs of my life. Their
contents were not very cheering. He gave a very dreary account of
Balaclava and of camp life, and almost dissuaded me from continuing my
journey; but his last letter ended by giving me instructions as to the
purchases I had best make, if I still determined upon making the
adventure; so I forgot all the rest, and busied myself in laying in
the stores he recommended.

But I found time, before I left the "Hollander," to charter a crazy
caicque, to carry me to Scutari, intending to present Dr. F----'s
letter to Miss Nightingale.

It was afternoon when the boatmen set me down in safety at the
landing-place of Scutari, and I walked up the slight ascent, to the
great dull-looking hospital. Thinking of the many noble fellows who
had been borne, or had painfully crept along this path, only to die
within that dreary building, I felt rather dull; and directly I
entered the hospital, and came upon the long wards of sufferers, lying
there so quiet and still, a rush of tears came to my eyes, and blotted
out the sight for a few minutes. But I soon felt at home, and looked
about me with great interest. The men were, many of them, very quiet.
Some of the convalescent formed themselves into little groups around
one who read a newspaper; others had books in their hands, or by their
side, where they had fallen when slumber overtook the readers, while
hospital orderlies moved to and fro, and now and then the female
nurses, in their quiet uniform, passed noiselessly on some mission of

I was fortunate enough to find an old acquaintance, who accompanied me
through the wards, and rendered it unnecessary for me to trouble the
busy nurses. This was an old 97th man--a Sergeant T----, whom I had
known in Kingston, and who was slowly recovering from an attack of
dysentery, and making himself of use here until the doctors should let
him go back and have another "shy at the Rooshians." He is very glad
to meet me, and tells me his history very socially, and takes me to
the bedsides of some comrades, who had also known me at Up-Park Camp.
My poor fellows! how their eyes glisten when they light upon an old
friend's face in these Turkish barracks--put to so sad a use, three
thousand miles from home. Here is one of them--"hurt in the trenches,"
says the Sergeant, with shaven bandaged head, and bright, restless,
Irish eyes, who hallooes out, "Mother Seacole! Mother Seacole!" in
such an excited tone of voice; and when he has shaken hands a score of
times, falls back upon his pillow very wearily. But I sit by his side,
and try to cheer him with talk about the future, when he shall grow
well, and see home, and hear them all thank him for what he has been
helping to do, so that he grows all right in a few minutes; but,
hearing that I am on the way to the front, gets excited again; for,
you see, illness and weakness make these strong men as children, not
least in the patient unmurmuring resignation with which they suffer. I
think my Irish friend had an indistinct idea of a "muddle" somewhere,
which had kept him for weeks on salt meat and biscuit, until it gave
him the "scurvy," for he is very anxious that I should take over
plenty of vegetables, of every sort. "And, oh! mother!"--and it is
strange to hear his almost plaintive tone as he urges this--"take them
plenty of eggs, mother; we never saw eggs over there."

At some slight risk of giving offence, I cannot resist the temptation
of lending a helping hand here and there--replacing a slipped
bandage, or easing a stiff one. But I do not think any one was
offended; and one doctor, who had with some surprise and, at first,
alarm on his face, watched me replace a bandage, which was giving
pain, said, very kindly, when I had finished, "Thank you, ma'am."

One thought never left my mind as I walked through the fearful miles
of suffering in that great hospital. If it is so here, what must it
not be at the scene of war--on the spot where the poor fellows are
stricken down by pestilence or Russian bullets, and days and nights of
agony must be passed before a woman's hand can dress their wounds. And
I felt happy in the conviction that _I must_ be useful three or four
days nearer to their pressing wants than this.

It was growing late before I felt tired, or thought of leaving
Scutari, and Dr. S----, another Jamaica friend, who had kindly borne
me company for the last half-hour agreed with me that the caicque was
not the safest conveyance by night on the Bosphorus, and recommended
me to present my letter to Miss Nightingale, and perhaps a lodging for
the night could be found for me. So, still under the Sergeant's
patient guidance, we thread our way through passages and corridors,
all used as sick-wards, until we reach the corner tower of the
building, in which are the nurses' quarters.

I think Mrs. B----, who saw me, felt more surprise than she could
politely show (I never found women so quick to understand me as the
men) when I handed her Dr. F----'s kind letter respecting me, and
apologized for troubling Miss Nightingale. There is that in the
Doctor's letter (he had been much at Scutari) which prevents my
request being refused, and I am asked to wait until Miss Nightingale,
whose every moment is valuable, can see me. Meanwhile Mrs. B.
questions me very kindly, but with the same look of curiosity and

What object has Mrs. Seacole in coming out? This is the purport of her
questions. And I say, frankly, to be of use somewhere; for other
considerations I had not, until necessity forced them upon me.
Willingly, had they accepted me, I would have worked for the wounded,
in return for bread and water. I fancy Mrs. B---- thought that I
sought for employment at Scutari, for she said, very kindly--

"Miss Nightingale has the entire management of our hospital staff, but
I do not think that any vacancy--"

"Excuse me, ma'am," I interrupt her with, "but I am bound for the
front in a few days;" and my questioner leaves me, more surprised than
ever. The room I waited in was used as a kitchen. Upon the stoves were
cans of soup, broth, and arrow-root, while nurses passed in and out
with noiseless tread and subdued manner. I thought many of them had
that strange expression of the eyes which those who have gazed long on
scenes of woe or horror seldom lose.

In half an hour's time I am admitted to Miss Nightingale's presence. A
slight figure, in the nurses' dress; with a pale, gentle, and withal
firm face, resting lightly in the palm of one white hand, while the
other supports the elbow--a position which gives to her countenance a
keen inquiring expression, which is rather marked. Standing thus in
repose, and yet keenly observant--the greatest sign of impatience at
any time[B] a slight, perhaps unwitting motion of the firmly planted
right foot--was Florence Nightingale--that Englishwoman whose name
shall never die, but sound like music on the lips of British men until
the hour of doom.

She has read Dr. F----'s letter, which lies on the table by her side,
and asks, in her gentle but eminently practical and business-like way,
"What do you want, Mrs. Seacole--anything that we can do for you? If
it lies in my power, I shall be very happy."

So I tell her of my dread of the night journey by caicque, and the
improbability of my finding the "Hollander" in the dark; and, with
some diffidence, threw myself upon the hospitality of Scutari,
offering to nurse the sick for the night. Now unfortunately, for many
reasons, room even for one in Scutari Hospital was at that time no
easy matter to find; but at last a bed was discovered to be unoccupied
at the hospital washerwomen's quarters.

My experience of washerwomen, all the world over, is the same--that
they are kind soft-hearted folks. Possibly the soap-suds they almost
live in find their way into their hearts and tempers, and soften them.
This Scutari washerwoman is no exception to the rule, and welcomes me
most heartily. With her, also, are some invalid nurses; and after they
have gone to bed, we spend some hours of the night talking over our
adventures, and giving one another scraps of our respective
biographies. I hadn't long retired to my couch before I wished most
heartily that we had continued our chat; for unbidden and most
unwelcome companions took the washerwoman's place, and persisted not
only in dividing my bed, but my plump person also. Upon my word, I
believe the fleas are the only industrious creatures in all Turkey.
Some of their relatives would seem to have migrated into Russia; for I
found them in the Crimea equally prosperous and ubiquitous.

In the morning, a breakfast is sent to my mangled remains, and a kind
message from Mrs. B----, having reference to how I spent the night.
And, after an interview with some other medical men, whose
acquaintance I had made in Jamaica, I shake hands with the
soft-hearted washerwoman, up to her shoulders in soap-suds already,
and start for the "Hollander."


[B] Subsequently I saw much of Miss Nightingale, at Balaclava.



During my stay in Constantinople, I was accustomed to employ, as a
guide, a young Greek Jew, whose name it is no use my attempting to
spell, but whom I called by the one common name there--"Johnny."
Wishing, however, to distinguish my Johnny from the legion of other
Johnnies, I prefixed the term Jew to his other name, and addressed him
as Jew Johnny. How he had picked up his knowledge I cannot tell, but
he could talk a little broken English, besides French, which, had I
been qualified to criticise it, I should have found, perhaps, as
broken as his English. He attached himself very closely to me, and
seemed very anxious to share my fortunes; and after he had pleaded
hard, many times, to be taken to the Crimea, I gave in, and formally
hired him. He was the best and faithfullest servant I had in the
Crimea, and, so far from regretting having picked up Jew Johnny from
the streets of Pera, I should have been very badly off without him.

More letters come from Mr. Day, giving even worse accounts of the
state of things at Balaclava; but it is too late for hesitation now.
My plans are perfected, my purchases made, and passage secured in the
"Albatross"--a transport laden with cattle and commissariat officers
for Balaclava. I thought I should never have transported my things
from the "Hollander" to the "Albatross." It was a terrible day, and
against the strong current and hurricane of wind Turkish and Greek
arms seemed of little avail; but at last, after an hour or more of
terrible anxiety and fear, the "Albatross's" side was reached, and I
clambered on deck, drenched and wretched.

My companions are cheerful, pleasant fellows, and the short, although
somewhat hazardous, voyage across the Black Sea is safely made, and
one morning we become excited at seeing a dark rock-bound coast, on
which they tell us is Balaclava. As we steam on we see, away to the
right, clouds of light smoke, which the knowing travellers tell us are
not altogether natural, but show that Sebastopol is not yet taken,
until the "Albatross" lays-to within sight of where the "Prince," with
her ill-fated companions, went down in that fearful November storm,
four short months ago, while application is made to the harbour-master
for leave to enter the port of Balaclava. It does not appear the
simplest favour in the world that we are applying for--licence to
escape from the hazards of the Black Sea. But at last it comes, and we
slowly wind through a narrow channel, and emerge into a small
landlocked basin, so filled with shipping that their masts bend in the
breeze like a wintry forest. Whatever might have been the case at one
time, there is order in Balaclava Harbour now, and the "Albatross,"
with the aid of her boats, moves along to her appointed moorings.

Such a busy scene as that small harbour presented could be rarely met
with elsewhere. Crowded with shipping, of every size and variety, from
the noble English steamer to the smallest long-shore craft, while
between them and the shore passed and repassed innumerable boats;
men-of-war's boats, trim and stern; merchant-ship's boats, laden to
the gunwales; Greek and Maltese boats, carrying their owners
everywhere on their missions of sharp dealing and roguery. Coming from
the quiet gloomy sea into this little nook of life and bustle the
transition is very sudden and startling, and gives one enough to think
about without desiring to go on shore this afternoon.

On the following morning, Mr. Day, apprised of my arrival, came on
board the "Albatross," and our plans were laid. I must leave the
"Albatross," of course, and, until we decide upon our future, I had
better take up my quarters on board the "Medora," which is hired by
the Government, at a great cost, as an ammunition ship. The proposal
was not a very agreeable one, but I have no choice left me. Our
stores, too, had to be landed at once. Warehouses were unheard of in
Balaclava, and we had to stack them upon the shore and protect them as
well as we were able.

My first task, directly I had become settled on board the "Medora,"
was to send word to my friends of my arrival in the Crimea, and
solicit their aid. I gave a Greek idler one pound to carry a letter
to the camp of the 97th, while I sent another to Captain Peel, who was
hard at work battering the defences of Sebastopol about the ears of
the Russians, from the batteries of the Royal Naval Brigade. I
addressed others to many of the medical men who had known me in other
lands; nor did I neglect to send word to my kind patron, Sir John
Campbell, then commanding a division: and my old friends answered my
letters most kindly. As the various officers came down on duty or
business to Balaclava they did not fail to find me out, and welcome me
to the Crimea, while Captain Peel and Sir J. Campbell sent the kindest
messages; and when they saw me, promised me every assistance, the
General adding that he is glad to see me where there is so much to do.
Among others, poor H. Vicars, whose kind face had so often lighted up
my old house in Kingston, came to take me by the hand in this
out-of-the-way corner of the world. I never felt so sure of the
success of any step as I did of this, before I had been a week in
Balaclava. But I had plenty of difficulties to contend with on every

Among the first, one of the ships, in which were many of our stores,
the "Nonpareil," was ordered out of the harbour before we could land
them all, and there was more than a probability that she would carry
back to Constantinople many of the things we had most pressing
occasion for. It became necessary, therefore, that some one should see
Admiral Boxer, and try to interest that mild-spoken and affable
officer in our favour. When I mentioned it to Mr. Day, he did not seem
inclined to undertake the mission, and nothing was left but for me to
face the terrible Port-Admiral. Fortunately, Captain H----, of the
"Diamond," was inclined to be my friend, and, not a little amused
with his mission, carried me right off to the Admiral. I confess that
I was as nearly frightened out of my wits as I ever have been, for the
Admiral's kind heart beat under a decidedly rough husk; and when
Captain H---- told him that I wanted his permission for the
"Nonpareil" to remain in the harbour for a few days, as there were
stores on board, he let fly enough hard words to frighten any woman.
But when I spoke up, and told him that I had known his son in the West
Indies, he relented, and granted my petition. But it was not without
more hard words, and much grumbling that a parcel of women should be
coming out to a place where they were not wanted.

Now, the Admiral did not repeat this remark a few days afterwards,
when he saw me attending the sick and wounded upon the sick wharf.

I remained six weeks in Balaclava, spending my days on shore, and my
nights on board ship. Over our stores, stacked on the shore, a few
sheets of rough tarpaulin were suspended; and beneath these--my sole
protection against the Crimean rain and wind--I spent some portion of
each day, receiving visitors and selling stores.

But my chief occupation, and one with which I never allowed any
business to interfere, was helping the doctors to transfer the sick
and wounded from the mules and ambulances into the transports that had
to carry them to the hospitals of Scutari and Buyukdere. I did not
forget the main object of my journey, to which I would have devoted
myself exclusively had I been allowed; and very familiar did I become
before long with the sick wharf of Balaclava. My acquaintance with it
began very shortly after I had reached Balaclava. The very first day
that I approached the wharf, a party of sick and wounded had just
arrived. Here was work for me, I felt sure. With so many patients, the
doctors must be glad of all the hands they could get. Indeed, so
strong was the old impulse within me, that I waited for no permission,
but seeing a poor artilleryman stretched upon a pallet, groaning
heavily, I ran up to him at once, and eased the stiff dressings.
Lightly my practised fingers ran over the familiar work, and well was
I rewarded when the poor fellow's groans subsided into a restless
uneasy mutter. God help him! He had been hit in the forehead, and I
think his sight was gone. I stooped down, and raised some tea to his
baked lips (here and there upon the wharf were rows of little
pannikins containing this beverage). Then his hand touched mine, and
rested there, and I heard him mutter indistinctly, as though the
discovery had arrested his wandering senses--

"Ha! this is surely a woman's hand."

I couldn't say much, but I tried to whisper something about hope and
trust in God; but all the while I think his thoughts were running on
this strange discovery. Perhaps I had brought to his poor mind
memories of his home, and the loving ones there, who would ask no
greater favour than the privilege of helping him thus; for he
continued to hold my hand in his feeble grasp, and whisper "God bless
you, _woman_--whoever you are, God bless you!"--over and over again.

I do not think that the surgeons noticed me at first, although, as
this was my introduction to Balaclava, I had not neglected my personal
appearance, and wore my favourite yellow dress, and blue bonnet, with
the red ribbons; but I noticed one coming to me, who, I think, would
have laughed very merrily had it not been for the poor fellow at my
feet. As it was, he came forward, and shook hands very kindly, saying,
"How do you do, ma'am? Much obliged to you for looking after my poor
fellow; very glad to see you here." And glad they always were, the
kind-hearted doctors, to let me help them look after the sick and
wounded sufferers brought to that fearful wharf.

I wonder if I can ever forget the scenes I witnessed there? Oh! they
were heartrending. I declare that I saw rough bearded men stand by and
cry like the softest-hearted women at the sights of suffering they
saw; while some who scorned comfort for themselves, would fidget about
for hours before the long trains of mules and ambulances came in,
nervous lest the most trifling thing that could minister to the
sufferers' comfort should be neglected. I have often heard men talk
and preach very learnedly and conclusively about the great wickedness
and selfishness of the human heart; I used to wonder whether they
would have modified those opinions if they had been my companions for
one day of the six weeks I spent upon that wharf, and seen but one
day's experience of the Christian sympathy and brotherly love shown by
the strong to the weak. The task was a trying one, and familiarity,
you might think, would have worn down their keener feelings of pity
and sympathy; but it was not so.

I was in the midst of my sad work one day when the Admiral came up,
and stood looking on. He vouchsafed no word nor look of recognition in
answer to my salute, but stood silently by, his hands behind his back,
watching the sick being lifted into the boats. You might have thought
that he had little feeling, so stern and expressionless was his face;
but once, when they raised a sufferer somewhat awkwardly, and he
groaned deeply, that rough man broke out all at once with an oath,
that was strangely like a prayer, and bade the men, for God's sake,
take more care. And, coming up to me, he clapped me on the shoulder,
saying, "I am glad to see you here, old lady, among these poor
fellows;" while, I am most strangely deceived if I did not see a
tear-drop gathering in his eye. It was on this same day, I think, that
bending down over a poor fellow whose senses had quite gone, and, I
fear me, would never return to him in this world, he took me for his
wife, and calling me "Mary, Mary," many times, asked me how it was he
had got home so quickly, and why he did not see the children; and said
he felt sure he should soon get better now. Poor fellow! I could not
undeceive him. I think the fancy happily caused by the touch of a
woman's hand soothed his dying hour; for I do not fancy he could have
lived to reach Scutari. I never knew it for certain, but I always felt
sure that he would never wake from that dream of home in this world.

And here, lest the reader should consider that I am speaking too
highly of my own actions, I must have recourse to a plan which I shall
frequently adopt in the following pages, and let another voice speak
for me in the kind letter received long after Balaclava had been left
to its old masters, by one who had not forgotten his old companion on
the sick-wharf. The writer, Major (then Captain) R----, had charge of
the wharf while I was there.

    "Glasgow, Sept. 1856.

    "Dear Mrs. Seacole,--I am very sorry to hear that you
    have been unfortunate in business; but I am glad to hear
    that you have found friends in Lord R---- and others,
    who are ready to help you. No one knows better than I do
    how much you did to help poor sick and wounded soldiers;
    and I feel sure you will find in your day of trouble
    that they have not forgotten it."

Major R---- was a brave and experienced officer, but the scenes on the
sick-wharf unmanned him often. I have known him nervously restless if
the people were behindhand, even for a few minutes, in their
preparations for the wounded. But in this feeling all shared alike.
Only women could have done more than they did who attended to this
melancholy duty; and they, not because their hearts could be softer,
but because their hands are moulded for this work.

But it must not be supposed that we had no cheerful scenes upon the
sick-wharf. Sometimes a light-hearted fellow--generally a
sailor--would forget his pain, and do his best to keep the rest in
good spirits. Once I heard my name eagerly pronounced, and turning
round, recognised a sailor whom I remembered as one of the crew of the
"Alarm," stationed at Kingston, a few years back.

"Why, as I live, if this ain't Aunty Seacole, of Jamaica! Shiver all
that's left of my poor timbers"--and I saw that the left leg was
gone--"if this ain't a rum go, mates!"

"Ah! my man, I'm sorry to see you in this sad plight."

"Never fear for me, Aunty Seacole; I'll make the best of the leg the
Rooshians have left me. I'll get at them soon again, never fear. You
don't think, messmates"--he never left his wounded comrades
alone--"that they'll think less of us at home for coming back with a
limb or so short?"

"You bear your troubles well, my son."

"Eh! do I, Aunty?" and he seemed surprised. "Why, look'ye, when I've
seen so many pretty fellows knocked off the ship's roll altogether,
don't you think I ought to be thankful if I can answer the bo'swain's
call anyhow?"

And this was the sailors' philosophy always. And this brave fellow,
after he had sipped some lemonade, and laid down, when he heard the
men groaning, raised his head and comforted them in the same strain
again; and, it may seem strange, but it quieted them.

I used to make sponge-cakes on board the "Medora," with eggs brought
from Constantinople. Only the other day, Captain S----, who had charge
of the "Medora," reminded me of them. These, with some lemonade, were
all the doctors would allow me to give to the wounded. They all liked
the cake, poor fellows, better than anything else: perhaps because it
tasted of "home."



My life in Balaclava could not but be a rough one. The exposure by day
was enough to try any woman's strength; and at night one was not
always certain of repose. Nor was it the easiest thing to clamber up
the steep sides of the "Medora;" and more than once I narrowly escaped
a sousing in the harbour. Why it should be so difficult to climb a
ship's side, when a few more staves in the ladder, and those a little
broader, would make it so easy, I have never been able to guess. And
once on board the "Medora," my berth would not altogether have suited
a delicate female with weak nerves. It was an ammunition ship, and we
slept over barrels of gunpowder and tons of cartridges, with the by no
means impossible contingency of their prematurely igniting, and giving
us no time to say our prayers before launching us into eternity. Great
care was enjoined, and at eight o'clock every evening Captain S----
would come down, and order all lights out for the night. But I used to
put my lantern into a deep basin, behind some boxes, and so evaded the
regulation. I felt rather ashamed of this breach of discipline one
night, when another ammunition ship caught fire in the crowded
harbour, and threatened us all with speedy destruction. We all knew,
if they failed in extinguishing the fire pretty quickly, what our
chances of life were worth, and I think the bravest drew his breath
heavily at the thought of our danger. Fortunately, they succeeded in
extinguishing the firebrand before any mischief was done; but I do not
think the crew of the "Medora" slept very comfortably that night. It
was said that the Russians had employed an incendiary; but it would
have been strange if in that densely crowded harbour some accidents
had not happened without their agency.

Harassing work, indeed, was the getting our stores on shore, with the
aid of the Greek and Maltese boatmen, whose profession is thievery.
Not only did they demand exorbitant sums for the carriage, but they
contrived to rob us by the way in the most ingenious manner. Thus many
things of value were lost in the little journey from the "Albatross"
and "Nonpareil" to the shore, which had made the long voyage from
England safely. Keep as sharp a look out as I might, some package or
box would be tipped overboard by the sudden swaying of the boat, or
passing by of one of the boatmen--of course, accidentally--and no
words could induce the rascals, in their feigned ignorance of my
language, to stop; and, looking back at the helpless waif, it was not
altogether consolatory to see another boat dart from between some
shipping, where it had been waiting, as accidentally, ready to pounce
upon any such wind or waterfalls.

Still more harassing work was it to keep the things together on the
shore: often in the open light of day, while I sat there (after my
duties on the sick-wharf were over) selling stores, or administering
medicine to the men of the Land Transport and Army Works Corps, and
others, who soon found out my skill, valuable things would be
abstracted; while there was no limit to the depredations by night. Of
course we hired men to watch; but our choice of servants was very
limited, and very often those we employed not only shut their eyes to
the plunder of their companions, but helped themselves freely. The
adage, "set a thief to catch a thief," answered very badly in

Sometimes Jew Johnny would volunteer to watch for the night; and glad
I was when I knew that the honest lynx-eyed fellow was there. One
night he caught a great-limbed Turk making off with a firkin of butter
and some other things. The fellow broke away from Johnny's grasp with
the butter, but the lad marked him down to his wretched den, behind
the engineers' quarters, and, on the following morning, quietly
introduced me to the lazy culprit, who was making up for the partial
loss of his night's rest among as evil-looking a set of comrades as I
have ever seen. There was a great row, and much indignation shown at
the purpose of my visit; but I considered myself justified in calling
in the aid of one of the Provost marshal's officers, and, in the
presence of this most invaluable official, a confession was soon made.
Beneath the fellow's dirty bed, the butter was found buried; and, in
its company, a two-dozen case of sherry, which the rogue had, in
flagrant defiance of the Prophet's injunction, stolen for his own
private drinking, a few nights previously.

The thievery in this little out-of-the way port was something
marvellous; and the skill and ingenuity of the operators would have
reflected credit upon the _élite_ of their profession practising in
the most civilized city of Europe. Nor was the thievery confined
altogether to the professionals, who had crowded to this scene of
action from the cities and islands of the Mediterranean. They robbed
us, the Turks, and one another; but a stronger hand was sometimes laid
on them. The Turk, however, was sure to be the victim, let who might
be the oppressor.

In this predatory warfare, as in more honourable service, the Zouaves
particularly distinguished themselves. These undoubtedly gallant
little fellows, always restless for action, of some sort, would, when
the luxury of a brash with the Russians was occasionally denied them,
come down to Balaclava, in search of opportunities of waging war
against society at large. Their complete and utter absence of
conscientious scruples as to the rights of property was most amusing.
To see a Zouave gravely cheat a Turk, or trip up a Greek
street-merchant, or Maltese fruit-seller, and scud away with the
spoil, cleverly stowed in his roomy red pantaloons, was an operation,
for its coolness, expedition, and perfectness, well worth seeing. And,
to a great extent, they escaped scatheless, for the English Provost
marshal's department was rather chary of interfering with the
eccentricities of our gallant allies; while if the French had taken
close cognizance of the Zouaves' amusements out of school, one-half of
the regiments would have been always engaged punishing the other half.

The poor Turk! it is lamentable to think how he was robbed, abused,
and bullied by his friends. Why didn't he show a little pluck? There
wasn't a rough sailor, or shrewd boy--the English boy, in all his
impudence and prejudice, flourished in Balaclava--who would not gladly
have patted him upon the back if he would but have held up his head,
and shown ever so little spirit. But the Englishman cannot understand
a coward--will scarcely take the trouble to pity him; and even the
craven Greek could lord it over the degenerate descendants of the
fierce Arabs, who--so they told me on the spot--had wrested
Constantinople from the Christians, in those old times of which I know
so little. Very often an injured Turk would run up to where I sat, and
stand there, wildly telegraphing his complaints against some
villainous-looking Greek, or Italian, whom a stout English lad would
have shaken out of his dirty skin in five minutes.

Once, however, I saw the tables turned. As the anecdote will help to
illustrate the relative positions of the predatory tribes of
Balaclava, I will narrate it. Hearing one morning a louder hubbub than
was usual upon the completion of a bargain, and the inevitable
quarrelling that always followed, I went up to where I saw an excited
crowd collected around a Turk, in whose hands a Greek was struggling
vainly. This Greek had, it seemed, robbed his enemy, but the Turk was
master this time, and had, in order to force from the robber a
confession of the place where the stolen things were deposited (like
dogs, as they were, these fellows were fond of burying their plunder),
resorted to torture. This was effected most ingeniously and simply by
means of some packthread, which, bound round the Greek's two thumbs,
was tightened on the tourniquet principle, until the pain elicited a
confession. But the Turk, stimulated to retaliation by his triumph,
bagged the Greek's basket, which contained amongst other things two
watches, which their present owner had no doubt stolen. Driven to the
most ludicrous show of despair, the Greek was about to attempt another
desperate struggle for the recovery of his goods, when two Zouaves
elbowed their small persons upon the crowded stage, and were eagerly
referred to by all the parties concerned in the squabble. How they
contrived it, I cannot say, so prompt were their movements; but, in a
very few minutes, the watches were in their possession, and going much
faster than was agreeable either to Turk or Greek, who both combined
to arrest this new movement, and thereby added a sharp thrashing to
their other injuries. The Zouaves effected their escape safely, while
the Greek, with a despair that had in it an equal share of the
ludicrous and the tragic, threw himself upon the dusty ground, and
tore his thin hair out by handfuls. I believe that the poor wretch,
whom we could not help pitying, journeyed to Kamiesch, to discover his
oppressors; but I fear he didn't gain much information there.

Had it not been for the unremitting activity of the authorities, no
life would have been safe in Balaclava, with its population of
villains of every nation. As it was, murder was sometimes added to
robbery, and many of the rascals themselves died suspicious deaths,
with the particulars of which the authorities did not trouble
themselves. But the officials worked hard, both in the harbour and on
shore, to keep order; few men could have worked harder. I often saw
the old grey-haired Admiral about before the sun had fairly shown
itself; and those of his subordinates must have been somewhat heavy
sleepers who could play the sluggard then.

At length the necessary preparations to establish our store were made.
We hit upon a spot about two miles from Balaclava, in advance of
Kadikoi, close to where the railway engines were stationed, and within
a mile of head-quarters. Leave having been obtained to erect buildings
here, we set to work briskly, and soon altered the appearance of
Spring Hill--so we christened our new home. Sometimes on horseback,
sometimes getting a lift on the commissariat carts, and occasionally
on the ammunition railway-waggons, I managed to visit Spring Hill
daily, and very soon fitted up a shed sufficiently large to take up my
abode in. But the difficulty of building our store was immense. To
obtain material was next to impossible; but that collected (not a
little was, by leave of the Admiral, gleaned from the floating rubbish
in the harbour), to find workmen to make use of it was still more
difficult. I spent days going round the shipping, offering great
wages, even, for an invalid able to handle saw and hammer, however
roughly, and many a long ride through the camps did I take on the same
errand. At length, by dint of hard canvassing, we obtained the aid of
two English sailors, whom I nicknamed "Big and Little Chips," and some
Turks, and set to work in good earnest.

I procured the Turks from the Pacha who commanded the division
encamped in the neighbourhood of Spring Hill. It was decided that we
should apply to him for help, and accordingly I became ambassadress on
this delicate mission, and rode over to the Pacha's quarters, Jew
Johnny attending me as interpreter. I was received by the Pacha with
considerable kindness and no trifling amount of formality, and after
taking coffee I proceeded, through Jew Johnny, to explain the object
of my visit, while his Excellency, a tall man, with a dark pleasing
face, smoked gravely, and took my request into his gracious

On the following day came the answer to my request, in the persons of
two curious Turkish carpenters, who were placed at our orders. After a
little while, too, a Turkish officer, whom I christened Captain Ali
Baba, took so great an interest in our labours that he would work like
any carpenter, and with a delight and zeal that were astonishing. To
see him fall back, and look smilingly at every piece of his
workmanship, was a sight to restore the most severely tried temper. I
really think that the good-hearted fellow thought it splendid fun, and
never wearied of it. But for him I do not know how we should have
managed with our other Turkish "chips"--chips of the true old Turkish
block they were--deliberate, slow, and indolent, breaking off into
endless interruptions for the sacred duties of eating and praying, and
getting into out-of-the-way corners at all times of the day to smoke
themselves to sleep.

In the midst of our work a calamity occurred, which was very nearly
becoming a catastrophe. By the giving way of a dam, after some heavy
rains, the little stream which threaded its silvery way past Spring
Hill swelled without any warning into a torrent, which, sweeping
through my temporary hut, very nearly carried us all away, and
destroyed stores of between one and two hundred pounds in value. This
calamity might have had a tragical issue for me, for seeing a little
box which contained some things, valuable as relics of the past, being
carried away, I plunged in after it, and losing my balance, was rolled
over and over by the stream, and with some difficulty reached the
shore. Some of Lord Raglan's staff passing our wreck on the following
day, made inquiries respecting the loss we had sustained, and a
messenger was sent from head-quarters, who made many purchases, in
token of their sympathy.

My visit to the Turkish Pacha laid the foundation of a lasting
friendship. He soon found his way to Spring Hill, and before long
became one of my best customers and most frequent visitors. It was
astonishing to note how completely, now that he was in the land of the
Giaours, he adapted himself to the tastes and habits of the infidels.
Like a Scotch Presbyterian, on the Continent for a holiday, he threw
aside all the prejudices of his education, and drank bottled beer,
sherry, and champagne with an appreciation of their qualities that no
thirsty-souled Christian could have expressed more gratefully. He was
very affable with us all, and would sometimes keep Jew Johnny away
from his work for hours, chatting with us or the English officers who
would lounge into our as yet unfinished store. Sometimes he would come
down to breakfast, and spend the greater part of the day at Spring
Hill. Indeed, the wits of Spring Hill used to laugh, and say that the
crafty Pacha was throwing his pocket-handkerchief at Madame Seacole,
widow; but as the honest fellow candidly confessed he had three wives
already at home, I acquit him of any desire to add to their number.

The Pacha's great ambition was to be familiar with the English
language, and at last nothing would do but he must take lessons of me.
So he would come down, and sitting in my store, with a Turk or so at
his feet, to attend to his most important pipe, by inserting little
red-hot pieces of charcoal at intervals, would try hard to sow a few
English sentences in his treacherous memory. He never got beyond half
a dozen; and I think if we had continued in the relation of pupil and
mistress until now, the number would not have been increased greatly.
"Madame Seacole," "Gentlemen, good morning," and "More champagne,"
with each syllable much dwelt upon, were his favourite sentences. It
was capital fun to hear him, when I was called away suddenly to attend
to a customer, or to give a sick man medicine, repeating gravely the
sentence we had been studying, until I passed him, and started him
with another.

Very frequently he would compliment me by ordering his band down to
Spring Hill for my amusement. They played excellently well, and I used
to think that I preferred their music to that of the French and
English regimental bands. I laughed heartily one day, when, in
compliance with the kind-hearted Anglo-Turkish Pacha's orders, they
came out with a grand new tune, in which I with difficulty recognised
a very distant resemblance to "God save the Queen."

Altogether he was a capital neighbour, and gave such strict orders to
his men to respect our property that we rarely lost anything. On the
whole, the Turks were the most honest of the nations there (I except
the English and the Sardinians), and the most tractable. But the
Greeks hated them, and showed their hate in every way. In bringing up
things for the Pacha's use they would let the mules down, and smash
their loads most relentlessly. Now and then they suffered, as was the
case one day when I passed through the camp and saw my friend
superintending the correction of a Greek who was being bastinadoed. It
seemed a painful punishment.

I was sorry, therefore, when my friend's division was ordered to
Kamara, and we lost our neighbours. But my pupil did not forget his
schoolmistress. A few days after they had left the neighbourhood of
Spring Hill came a messenger, with a present of lambs, poultry, and
eggs, and a letter, which I could not decipher, as many of the
interpreters could speak English far better than they could write it.
But we discovered that the letter contained an invitation, to Mr. Day
and myself, to go over to Kamara, and select from the spoil of the
village anything that might be useful in our new buildings. And a few
days later came over a large araba, drawn by four mules, and laden
with a pair of glass-doors, and some window-frames, which the
thoughtful kind Pacha had judged--and judged rightly--would be a very
acceptable present. And very often the good-natured fellow would ride
over from Kamara, and resume his acquaintance with myself and my
champagne, and practise his English sentences.

We felt the loss of our Turkish neighbours in more ways than one. The
neighbourhood, after their departure, was left lonely and unprotected,
and it was not until a division of the Land Transport Corps came and
took up their quarters near us, that I felt at all secure of personal
safety. Mr. Day rarely returned to Spring Hill until nightfall
relieved him from his many duties, and I depended chiefly upon two
sailors, both of questionable character, two black servants, Jew
Johnny, and my own reputation for determination and courage--a poor
delusion, which I took care to heighten by the judicious display of a
double-barrelled pistol, lent me for the purpose by Mr. Day, and which
I couldn't have loaded to save my life.


    A HORSE.

Summer was fairly advanced before the British Hotel was anything like
finished; indeed, it never was completed, and when we left the Hill, a
year later, it still wanted shutters. But long before that time Spring
Hill had gained a great reputation. Of course, I have nothing to do
with what occurred in the camp, although I could not help hearing a
great deal about it. Mismanagement and privation there might have
been, but my business was to make things right in my sphere, and
whatever confusion, and disorder existed elsewhere, comfort and order
were always to be found at Spring Hill. When there was no sun
elsewhere, some few gleams--so its grateful visitors said--always
seemed to have stayed behind, to cheer the weary soldiers that
gathered in the British Hotel. And, perhaps, as my kind friend _Punch_
said, after all these things had become pleasant memories of the past.

    "The cold without gave a zest, no doubt,
    To the welcome warmth within;
    But her smile, good old soul, lent heat to the coal,
    And power to the pannikin."

Let me, in a few words, describe the British Hotel. It was
acknowledged by all to be the most complete thing there. It cost no
less than £800. The buildings and yards took up at least an acre of
ground, and were as perfect as we could make them. The hotel and
storehouse consisted of a long iron room, with counters, closets, and
shelves; above it was another low room, used by us for storing our
goods, and above this floated a large union-jack. Attached to this
building was a little kitchen, not unlike a ship's caboose--all stoves
and shelves. In addition to the iron house were two wooden houses,
with sleeping apartments for myself and Mr. Day, out-houses for our
servants, a canteen for the soldiery, and a large enclosed yard for
our stock, full of stables, low huts, and sties. Everything, although
rough and unpolished, was comfortable and warm; and there was a
completeness about the whole which won general admiration. The reader
may judge of the manner in which we had stocked the interior of our
store from the remark, often repeated by the officers, that you might
get everything at Mother Seacole's, from an anchor down to a needle.

In addition, we had for our transport service four carts, and as many
horses and mules as could be kept from the thieves. To reckon upon
being in possession of these, at any future time, was impossible; we
have more than once seen a fair stud stabled at night-time, and on the
following morning been compelled to borrow cattle from the Land
Transport camp, to fetch our things up from Balaclava.

But it must not be supposed that my domestic difficulties came to an
end with the completion of the hotel. True, I was in a better position
to bear the Crimean cold and rain, but my other foes were as busy as
ever they had been on the beach at Balaclava. Thieves, biped and
quadruped, human and animal, troubled me more than ever; and perhaps
the most difficult to deal with were the least dangerous. The Crimean
rats, for instance, who had the appetites of London aldermen, and were
as little dainty as hungry schoolboys. Whether they had left
Sebastopol, guided by the instinct which leads their kindred in other
parts of the world to forsake sinking ships, or because the garrison
rations offended their palates, or whether they had patriotically
emigrated, to make war against the English larders, I do not pretend
to guess; but, whatever was their motive, it drew them in great
abundance to Spring Hill. They occasionally did us damage, in a single
night, to the tune of two or three pounds--wasting what they could not
devour. You could keep nothing sacred from their strong teeth. When
hard pressed they more than once attacked the live sheep; and at last
they went so far as to nibble one of our black cooks, Francis, who
slept among the flour barrels. On the following morning he came to me,
his eyes rolling angrily, and his white teeth gleaming, to show me a
mangled finger, which they had bitten, and ask me to dress it. He made
a great fuss; and a few mornings later he came in a violent passion
this time, and gave me instant notice to quit my service, although we
were paying him two pounds a week, with board and rations. This time
the rats had, it appeared, been bolder, and attacked his head, in a
spot where its natural armour, the wool, was thinnest, and the silly
fellow had a notion that the souls of the slain Russian soldiers had
entered the bodies of the rats, and made vengeful war upon their late
enemies. Driven to such an extremity, I made up my mind to scour the
camp, in search of a cat, and, after a long day's hunt, I came to the
conclusion that the tale of Whittington was by no means an improbable
one. Indeed, had a brisk young fellow with a cat, of even ordinary
skill in its profession, made their appearance at Spring Hill, I would
gladly have put them in the way--of laying the foundation, at
least--of a fortune. At last I found a benefactor, in the Guards'
camp, in Colonel D----, of the Coldstreams, who kindly promised me a
great pet, well known in the camp, and perhaps by some who may read
these pages, by the name of Pinkie. Pinkie was then helping a brother
officer to clear his hut, but on the following day a Guardsman brought
the noble fellow down. He lived in clover for a few days, but he had
an English cat-like attachment for his old house, and despite the
abundance of game, Pinkie soon stole away to his old master's
quarters, three miles off. More than once the men brought him back to
me, but the attractions of Spring Hill were never strong enough to
detain him long with me.

From the human thieves that surrounded Spring Hill I had to stand as
sharp a siege as the Russians had in that poor city against which we
heard the guns thundering daily; while the most cunning and desperate
sorties were often made upon the most exposed parts of my defences,
and sometimes with success. Scores of the keenest eyes and hundreds of
the sharpest fingers in the world were always ready to take advantage
of the least oversight. I had to keep two boys, whose chief occupation
was to watch the officers' horses, tied up to the doorposts of the
British Hotel. Before I adopted this safeguard, more than one officer
would leave his horse for a few minutes, and on his return find it
gone to the neighbourhood of the Naval Brigade, or the horse-fair at
Kamiesch. My old friends, the Zouaves, soon found me out at Spring
Hill, and the wiry, light-fingered, fighting-loving gentry spent much
of their leisure there. Those confounded trowsers of theirs offered
conveniences of stowage-room which they made rare use of. Nothing was
too small, and few things too unwieldy, to ride in them; like the
pockets of clown in a pantomime, they could accommodate a well-grown
baby or a pound of sausages equally well. I have a firm conviction
that they stuffed turkeys, geese, and fowls into them, and I
positively know that my only respectable teapot travelled off in the
same conveyance, while I detected one little fellow, who had tied them
down tight at his ankles, stowing away some pounds of tea and coffee
mixed. Some officers, who were present, cut the cords, and, holding up
the little scamp by the neck, shook his trowsers empty amid shouts of

Our live stock, from the horses and mules down to the geese and fowls,
suffered terribly. Although we kept a sharp look-out by day, and paid
a man five shillings a night as watchman, our losses were very great.
During the time we were in the Crimea we lost over a score of horses,
four mules, eighty goats, many sheep, pigs, and poultry, by thieving
alone. We missed in a single night forty goats and seven sheep, and on
Mr. Day's going to head-quarters with intelligence of the disaster,
they told him that Lord Raglan had recently received forty sheep from
Asia, all of which had disappeared in the same manner. The geese,
turkeys, and fowls vanished by scores. We found out afterwards that
the watchman paid to guard the sheep, used to kill a few occasionally.
As he represented them to have died a natural death during the night,
he got permission to bury them, instead of which he sold them. King
Frost claimed his share of our stock too, and on one December night,
of the winter of 1855, killed no less than forty sheep. It is all very
well to smile at these things now, but at the time they were
heartrending enough, and helped, if they did not cause, the ruin which
eventually overtook the firm of Seacole and Day. The determination and
zeal which besiegers and besieged showed with respect to a poor pig,
which was quietly and unconsciously fattening in its sty, are worthy
of record.

Fresh pork, in the spring of 1855, was certainly one of those luxuries
not easily obtainable in that part of the Crimea to which the British
army was confined, and when it became known that Mother Seacole had
purchased a promising young porker from one of the ships in Balaclava,
and that, brave woman! she had formed the courageous resolution of
fattening it for her favourites, the excitement among the frequenters
of Spring Hill was very great. I could laugh heartily now, when I
think of the amount of persuasion and courting I stood out for before
I bound myself how its four legs were to be disposed of. I learnt more
at that time of the trials and privileges of authority than I am ever
likely to experience again. Upon my word, I think if the poor thing
had possessed as many legs as my editor tells me somebody called the
Hydra (with whom my readers are perhaps more familiar than I am) had
heads, I should have found candidates for them. As it was, the contest
for those I had to bestow was very keen, and the lucky individuals who
were favoured by me looked after their interests most carefully. One
of them, to render mistake or misunderstanding impossible, entered my
promise in my day-book. The reader will perhaps smile at the following
important memorandum in the gallant officer's writing:--

   "Memorandum that Mrs. Seacole did this day, in the
   presence of Major A---- and Lieutenant W----, promise
   Captain H----, R.A., a leg of _the_ pig."

Now it was well known that many greedy eyes and fingers were directed
towards the plump fellow, and considerable interest was manifested in
the result of the struggle, "Mrs. Seacole _versus_ Thievery." I think
they had some confidence in me, and that I was the favourite; but
there was a large field against me, which found its backers also; and
many a bet was laughingly laid on the ultimate fate of the unconscious

I baffled many a knavish trick to gain possession of the fine fellow;
but, after all, I lost him in the middle of the day, when I thought
the boldest rogues would not have run the risk. The shouts and
laughter of some officers who were riding down from the front first
informed me of my loss. Up they rode, calling out--"Mother Seacole!
old lady! quick!--_the_ pig's gone!"

I rushed out, injured woman that I was, and saw it all at a glance.
But that my straw wide-awake was in the way, I could have torn my hair
in my vexation. I rushed to the sty, found the nest warm, and with
prompt decision prepared for speedy pursuit. Back I came to the
horsemen, calling out--"Off with you, my sons!--they can't have got
very far away yet. Do your best to save my bacon!"

Delighted with the fun, the horsemen dispersed, laughing and
shouting--"Stole away! hark away!" while I ran indoors, turned out all
my available body-guard, and started in pursuit also. Not half a mile
off we soon saw a horseman wave his cap; and starting off into a run,
came to a little hollow, where the poor panting animal and two Greek
thieves had been run down. The Provost-marshal took the latter in hand
willingly, and Piggy was brought home in triumph. But those who had
pork expectancies, hearing of the adventure, grew so seriously alarmed
at the narrow escape, that they petitioned me to run so desperate a
hazard no longer; and the poor thing was killed on the following day,
and distributed according to promise. A certain portion was reserved
for sausages, which, fried with mashed potatoes, were quite the rage
at the British Hotel for some days. Some pork was also sent to
head-quarters, with an account of the dangers we ran from thieves. It
drew the following kind acknowledgment from General B----:


    "My dear Mrs. Seacole,--I am very much obliged to you
    indeed for your pork. I have spoken to Colonel P---- as
    to the police of your neighbourhood, and he will see
    what arrangement can be made for the general protection
    of that line of road. When the high-road is finished,
    you will be better off. Let me know at the time of any
    depredations that are committed, and we will try and
    protect you.--I am, faithfully yours,

        "M. L. B----."

For the truth was--although I can laugh at my fears now--I was often
most horribly frightened at Spring Hill; and there was cause for it
too. My washerwoman, who, with her family, lived not half a mile from
us, was with me one day, and carried off some things for the wash. On
the following morning I was horrified to learn that she, her father,
husband, and children--in all, seven--had been most foully murdered
during the night: only one of the whole family recovered from her
wounds, and lived to tell the tale. It created a great sensation at
the time, and caused me to pass many a sleepless night, for the
murderers were never discovered.

Whilst I am upon the subject of Crimean thievery, I may as well
exhaust it without paying any regard to the chronological order of my
reminiscences. I have before mentioned what I suffered from the
French. One day I caught one of our allies in my kitchen, robbing me
in the most ungrateful manner. He had met with an accident near Spring
Hill (I believe he belonged to a French regiment lent to assist the
English in road-making), and had been doctored by me; and now I found
him filling his pockets, before taking "French" leave of us. My black
man, Francis, pulled from his pockets a yet warm fowl, and other
provisions. We kicked him off the premises, and he found refuge with
some men of the Army Works Corps, who pitied him and gave him shelter.
He woke them in the middle of the night, laying hands rather clumsily
on everything that was removeable; and in the morning they brought him
to me, to ask what they should do with him. Unluckily for him, a
French officer of rank happened to be in the store, who, on hearing
our tale, packed him off to his regiment. I gathered from the
expression of the officer's face, and the dread legible upon the
culprit's, that it might be some considerable time before his itch for
breaking the eighth commandment could be again indulged in.

The trouble I underwent respecting a useful black mare, for which Mr.
Day had given thirty guineas, and which carried me beautifully, was
immense. Before it had been many weeks in our store it was
gone--whither, I failed to discover. Keeping my eyes wide open,
however, I saw "Angelina"--so I christened her--coming quietly down
the hill, carrying an elderly naval officer. I was ready to receive
the unconscious couple, and soon made my claim good. Of course, the
officer was not to blame. He had bought it of a sailor, who in his
turn had purchased the animal of a messmate, who of course had
obtained it from another, and so on; but eventually it returned to its
old quarters, where it only remained about a fortnight. I grew tired
of looking for Angelina, and had given her up, when one day she turned
up, in capital condition, in the possession of a French officer of
Chasseurs. But nothing I could say to the Frenchman would induce him
to take the view of the matter I wished, but had no right to enforce.
He had bought the horse at Kamiesch, and intended to keep it. We grew
hot at last; and our dispute drew out so large an audience that the
Frenchman took alarm, and tried to make off. I held on to Angelina
for a little while; but at last the mare broke away from me, as Tam o'
Shanter's Maggie did from the witches (I don't mean that she left me
even her tail), and vanished in a cloud of dust. It was the last I
ever saw of Angelina.

More than once the Crimean thievery reduced us to woeful straits. To a
Greek, returning to Constantinople, we entrusted (after the murder of
our washerwoman) two trunks, containing "things for the wash," which
he was to bring back as soon as possible. But neither upon Greek,
trunks, nor their contents did we ever set eyes again. It was a
serious loss. The best part of our table-cloths and other domestic
linen, all my clothes, except two suits, and all of Mr. Day's linen
vanished, and had to be replaced as best we could by fresh purchases
from Kamiesch and Kadikoi.

Perhaps the most ridiculous shift I was ever put to by the Crimean
thieves happened when we rose one morning and found the greater part
of our stud missing. I had, in the course of the day, urgent occasion
to ride over to the French camp on the Tchernaya; the only animal
available for my transport was an old grey mare, who had contracted
some equine disease of which I do not know the name, but which gave
her considerable resemblance to a dog suffering from the mange. Now,
go to the French camp I must; to borrow a horse was impossible, and
something must be done with the grey. Suddenly one of those happy
thoughts, which sometimes help us over our greatest difficulties,
entered into my scheming brains. Could I not conceal the poor mare's
worst blemishes. Her colour was grey; would not a thick coating of
flour from my dredger make all right? There was no time to be lost;
the remedy was administered successfully, and off I started; but,
alas! the wind was high and swept the skirts of my riding habit so
determinedly against the side of the poor beast, that before long its
false coat was transferred to the dark cloth, and my innocent _ruse_
exposed. The French are proverbially and really a polite and
considerate nation, but I never heard more hearty peals of laughter
from any sides than those which conveyed to me the horrible assurance
that my scheme had unhappily failed.



I hope the reader will give me credit for the assertion that I am
about to make, viz., that I enter upon the particulars of this chapter
with great reluctance; but I cannot omit them, for the simple reason
that they strengthen my one and only claim to interest the public,
viz., my services to the brave British army in the Crimea. But,
fortunately, I can follow a course which will not only render it
unnecessary for me to sound my own trumpet, but will be more
satisfactory to the reader. I can put on record the written opinions
of those who had ample means of judging and ascertaining how I
fulfilled the great object which I had in view in leaving England for
the Crimea; and before I do so, I must solicit my readers' attention
to the position I held in the camp as doctress, nurse, and "mother."

I have never been long in any place before I have found my practical
experience in the science of medicine useful. Even in London I have
found it of service to others. And in the Crimea, where the doctors
were so overworked, and sickness was so prevalent, I could not be long
idle; for I never forgot that my intention in seeking the army was to
help the kind-hearted doctors, to be useful to whom I have ever looked
upon and still regard as so high a privilege.

But before very long I found myself surrounded with patients of my
own, and this for two simple reasons. In the first place, the men (I
am speaking of the "ranks" now) had a very serious objection to going
into hospital for any but urgent reasons, and the regimental doctors
were rather fond of sending them there; and, in the second place, they
could and did get at my store sick-comforts and nourishing food, which
the heads of the medical staff would sometimes find it difficult to
procure. These reasons, with the additional one that I was very
familiar with the diseases which they suffered most from, and
successful in their treatment (I say this in no spirit of vanity),
were quite sufficient to account for the numbers who came daily to the
British Hotel for medical treatment.

That the officers were glad of me as a doctress and nurse may be
easily understood. When a poor fellow lay sickening in his cheerless
hut and sent down to me, he knew very well that I should not ride up
in answer to his message empty-handed. And although I did not hesitate
to charge him with the value of the necessaries I took him, still he
was thankful enough to be able to _purchase_ them. When we lie ill at
home surrounded with comfort, we never think of feeling any special
gratitude for the sick-room delicacies which we accept as a
consequence of our illness; but the poor officer lying ill and weary
in his crazy hut, dependent for the merest necessaries of existence
upon a clumsy, ignorant soldier-cook, who would almost prefer eating
his meat raw to having the trouble of cooking it (our English soldiers
are bad campaigners), often finds his greatest troubles in the want of
those little delicacies with which a weak stomach must be humoured
into retaining nourishment. How often have I felt sad at the sight of
poor lads, who in England thought attending early parade a hardship,
and felt harassed if their neckcloths set awry, or the natty little
boots would not retain their polish, bearing, and bearing so nobly and
bravely, trials and hardships to which the veteran campaigner
frequently succumbed. Don't you think, reader, if you were lying, with
parched lips and fading appetite, thousands of miles from mother,
wife, or sister, loathing the rough food by your side, and thinking
regretfully of that English home where nothing that could minister to
your great need would be left untried--don't you think that you would
welcome the familiar figure of the stout lady whose bony horse has
just pulled up at the door of your hut, and whose panniers contain
some cooling drink, a little broth, some homely cake, or a dish of
jelly or blanc-mange--don't you think, under such circumstances, that
you would heartily agree with my friend _Punch's_ remark:--

    "That berry-brown face, with a kind heart's trace
        Impressed on each wrinkle sly,
    Was a sight to behold, through the snow-clouds rolled
        Across that iron sky."

I tell you, reader, I have seen many a bold fellow's eyes moisten at
such a season, when a woman's voice and a woman's care have brought to
their minds recollections of those happy English homes which some of
them never saw again; but many did, who will remember their
woman-comrade upon the bleak and barren heights before Sebastopol.

Then their calling me "mother" was not, I think, altogether unmeaning.
I used to fancy that there was something homely in the word; and,
reader, you cannot think how dear to them was the smallest thing that
reminded them of home.

Some of my Crimean patients, who were glad of me as nurse and
doctress, bore names familiar to all England, and perhaps, did I ask
them, they would allow me to publish those names. I am proud to think
that a gallant sailor, on whose brave breast the order of Victoria
rests--a more gallant man can never wear it--sent for the doctress
whom he had known in Kingston, when his arm, wounded on the fatal 18th
of June, refused to heal, and I think that the application I
recommended did it good; but I shall let some of my patients' letters,
taken from a large bundle, speak for me. Of course I must suppress
most of their names. Here are two from one of my best and kindest

    "My dear Mamma,--Will you kindly give the bearer the
    bottle you promised me when you were here this morning,
    for my jaundice. Please let me know how much I am to
    take of it. Yours truly,

        "F. M., _C. E._"

You see the medicine does him good, for a few days later comes another
from the same writer:--

    "My dear Mrs. Seacole,--I have finished the bottle,
    which has done my jaundice a deal of good. Will you
    kindly send another by bearer. Truly yours,

        "F. M."

It was a capital prescription which had done his jaundice good. There
was so great a demand for it, that I kept it mixed in a large pan,
ready to ladle it out to the scores of applicants who came for it.

Sometimes they would send for other and no less important medicines.
Here is such an application from a sick officer:--

    "Mrs. Seacole would confer a favour on the writer, who
    is very ill, by giving his servant (the bearer) a boiled
    or roast fowl; if it be impossible to obtain them, some
    chicken broth would be very acceptable.

        "I am yours, truly obliged,

            "J. K., 18th R. S."

Doesn't that read like a sick man's letter, glad enough to welcome any
woman's face? Here are some gentlemen of the Commissariat anxious to
speak for me:--

    "Arthur C----, Comm. Staff Officer, having been attacked
    one evening with a very bad diarrhoea at Mrs.
    Seacole's, took some of her good medicine. It cured me
    before the next morning, and I have never been attacked
    since.--October 17th, 1855."

    "Archibald R. L----, Comm. Staff, Crimea, was suffering
    from diarrhoea for a week or more; after taking Mrs.
    Seacole's good medicines for two days, he became quite
    well, and remained so to this day.--October 17th, 1855."

Here is Mr. M----, paymaster of the Land Transport Corps, ready with a
good account of my services:--

    "I certify that Madame Seacole twice cured me
    effectually of dysentery while in the Crimea, and also
    my clerk and the men of my corps, to my certain

And some of the men shall speak for themselves:--

    "Stationary Engine, December 1, 1855.

    "I certify that I was severely attacked by diarrhoea
    after landing in the Crimea. I took a great deal of
    medicine, but nothing served me until I called on Mrs.
    Seacole. She gave me her medicine but once, and I was
    cured effectually.

        "Wm. Knollys, Sergt., L.T.C."

    "This is to certify that Wm. Row, L.T.C, had a severe
    attack of illness, and was in a short time restored to
    health by the prompt attention and medical skill of Mrs.
    Seacole, British Hotel, Spring Hill, Crimea."

Many of my patients belonged to the Land Transport and Army Works
Corps. The former indeed were in my close neighbourhood, and their
hospital was nearly opposite to the British Hotel. I did all I could
for them, and have many letters expressive of their gratitude. From
them I select the following:--

    "Head-Quarters, Camp, Crimea, June 30, 1856.

    "I have much pleasure in bearing testimony to Mrs.
    Seacole's kindness and attention to the sick of the
    Railway Labourers' Army Works Corps and Land Transport
    Corps during the winters of 1854 and 1855.

    "She not only, from the knowledge she had acquired in
    the West Indies, was enabled to administer appropriate
    remedies for their ailments, but, what was of as much or
    more importance, she charitably furnished them with
    proper nourishment, which they had no means of obtaining
    except in the hospital, and most of that class had an
    objection to go into hospital, particularly the railway
    labourers and the men of the Army Works Corps.

        "John Hall,

            "Inspector-General of Hospitals."

I hope that Mr. P----, of the Army Works Corps, will pardon my laying
the following letter before the public:--

    "Dear Mrs. Seacole,--It is with feelings of great
    pleasure that I hear you are safely arrived in England,
    upon which I beg to congratulate you, and return you
    many thanks for your kindness whilst in the Crimea.

    "The bitter sherry you kindly made up for me was in
    truth a great blessing to both myself and my son, and as
    I expect to go to Bombay shortly, I would feel grateful
    to you if you would favour me with the receipt for
    making it, as it appears to be so very grateful a
    beverage for weakness and bowel complaints in a warm
    climate. With many kind regards, believe me, dear madam,
    your obliged servant,

        "Samuel P----,

            "Late Superintendent Army Works Corps."

Here is a certificate from one of the Army Works' men, to whose case I
devoted no little time and trouble:--

    "I certify that I was labouring under a severe attack of
    diarrhoea last August, and that I was restored to
    health through the instrumentality and kindness of Mrs.

    "I also certify that my fingers were severely jammed
    whilst at work at Frenchman's Hill, and Mrs. Seacole
    cured me after three doctors had fruitlessly attempted
    to cure them.

    "And I cannot leave the Crimea without testifying to the
    kindness and skill of Mrs. Seacole, and may God reward
    her for it.

        "James Wallen,

            "5th Division Army Works Corps."

Here are three more letters--and the last I shall print--from a
sailor, a soldier, and a civilian:--

    "This is to certify that Wm. Adams, caulker, of H.M.S.
    'Wasp,' and belonging to the Royal Naval Brigade, had a
    severe attack of cholera, and was cured in a few hours
    by Mrs. Seacole."

    "I certify that I was troubled by a severe inflammation
    of the chest, caused by exposure in the trenches, for
    about four months, and that Mrs. Seacole's medicine
    completely cured me in one month, and may God reward

        "Charles Flinn, Sergt. 3rd Co. R.S.M."

    "Upper Clapton, Middlesex, March 2, 1856.

    "Dear Madam,--Having been informed by my son, Mr. Edward
    Gill, of St. George's Store, Crimea, of his recent
    illness (jaundice), and of your kind attention and
    advice to him during that illness, and up to the time he
    was, by the blessing of God and your assistance,
    restored to health, permit me, on behalf of myself, my
    wife, and my family, to return you our most grateful
    thanks, trusting you may be spared for many years to
    come, in health of body and vigour of mind, to carry out
    your benevolent intention. Believe me, my dear madam,
    yours most gratefully,

        "Edward Gill."

And now that I have made this a chapter of testimonials, I may as
well finish them right off, and have done with them altogether. I
shall trouble the patient reader with four more only, which I have not
the heart to omit.

    "Sebastopol, July 1, 1856.

    "Mrs. Seacole was with the British army in the Crimea
    from February, 1855, to this time. This excellent woman
    has frequently exerted herself in the most praiseworthy
    manner in attending wounded men, even in positions of
    great danger, and in assisting sick soldiers by all
    means in her power. In addition, she kept a very good
    store, and supplied us with many comforts at a time we
    much required them.

        "Wm. P----,

            "Adjutant-General of the British Army
                in the Crimea."

    "July 1, 1856.

    "I have much pleasure in stating that I am acquainted
    with Mrs. Seacole, and from all that I have seen or
    heard of her, I believe her to be a useful and good
    person, kind and charitable.

        "C. A. W----,

            "Lt.-Gen. Comm. of Sebastopol."

The third is from the pen of one who at that time was more looked to,
and better known, than any other man in the Crimea. In the 2nd vol. of
Russell's "Letters from the Seat of War," p. 187, is the following

    "In the hour of their illness these men (Army Works
    Corps), in common with many others, have found a kind
    and successful physician. Close to the railway,
    half-way between the Col de Balaclava and Kadikoi, Mrs.
    Seacole, formerly of Kingston and of several other parts
    of the world, such as Panama and Chagres, has pitched
    her abode--an iron storehouse with wooden sheds and
    outlying tributaries--and here she doctors and cures all
    manner of men with extraordinary success. She is always
    in attendance near the battle-field to aid the wounded,
    and has earned many a poor fellow's blessings."

Yes! I cannot--referring to that time--conscientiously charge myself
with doing less for the men who had only thanks to give me, than for
the officers whose gratitude gave me the necessaries of life. I think
I was ever ready to turn from the latter to help the former, humble as
they might be; and they were grateful in their way, and as far as they
could be. They would buy me apples and other fruit at Balaclava, and
leave them at my store. One made me promise, when I returned home, to
send word to his Irish mother, who was to send me a cow in token of
her gratitude for the help I had been to her son. I have a book filled
with hundreds of the names of those who came to me for medicines and
other aids; and never a train of sick or wounded men from the front
passed the British Hotel but its hostess was awaiting them to offer
comforts to the poor fellows, for whose suffering her heart bled.

_Punch_, who allowed my poor name to appear in the pages which had
welcomed Miss Nightingale home--_Punch_, that whimsical mouthpiece of
some of the noblest hearts that ever beat beneath black coats--shall
last of all raise its voice, that never yet pleaded an unworthy cause,
for the Mother Seacole that takes shame to herself for speaking thus
of the poor part she bore of the trials and hardships endured on that
distant shore, where Britain's best and bravest wrung hardly
Sebastopol from the grasp of Britain's foe:--

    "No store she set by the epaulette,
      Be it worsted or gold lace;
    For K. C. B. or plain private Smith,
      She had still one pleasant face.

    "And not alone was her kindness shown
      To the hale and hungry lot
    Who drank her grog and ate her prog,
      And paid their honest shot.

    "The sick and sorry can tell the story
      Of her nursing and dosing deeds;
    Regimental M.D. never worked as she,
      In helping sick men's needs.

    "Of such work, God knows, was as much as she chose
      That dreary winter-tide,
    When Death hung o'er the damp and pestilent camp,
      And his scythe swung far and wide.

    "She gave her aid to all who prayed,
      To hungry and sick and cold;
    Open hand and heart, alike ready to part
      Kind words and acts, and gold.

           *       *       *       *       *

    "And--be the right man in the right place who can--
      The right woman was Dame Seacole."

Reader, now that we have come to the end of this chapter, I can say
what I have been all anxiety to tell you from its beginning. Please
look back to Chapter VIII., and see how hard the right woman had to
struggle to convey herself to the right place.



I shall proceed in this chapter to make the reader acquainted with
some of the customers of the British Hotel, who came there for its
creature comforts as well as its hostess's medicines when need was;
and if he or she should be inclined to doubt or should hesitate at
accepting my experience of Crimean life as entirely credible, I beg
that individual to refer to the accounts which were given in the
newspapers of the spring of 1855, and I feel sure they will acquit me
of any intention to exaggerate. If I were to speak of all the nameless
horrors of that spring as plainly as I could, I should really disgust
you; but those I shall bring before your notice have all something of
the humorous in them--and so it ever is. Time is a great restorer, and
changes surely the greatest sorrow into a pleasing memory. The sun
shines this spring-time upon green grass that covers the graves of the
poor fellows we left behind sadly a few short months ago: bright
flowers grow up upon ruins of batteries and crumbling trenches, and
cover the sod that presses on many a mouldering token of the old time
of battle and death. I dare say that, if I went to the Crimea now, I
should see a smiling landscape, instead of the blood-stained scene
which I shall ever associate with distress and death; and as it is
with nature so it is with human kind. Whenever I meet those who have
survived that dreary spring of 1855, we seldom talk about its horrors;
but remembering its transient gleams of sunshine, smile at the fun and
good nature that varied its long and weary monotony. And now that I am
anxious to remember all I can that will interest my readers, my memory
prefers to dwell upon what was pleasing and amusing, although the time
will never come when it will cease to retain most vividly the pathos
and woe of those dreadful months.

I have said that the winter had not ended when we began operations at
the British Hotel; and very often, after we considered we were fairly
under spring's influence, our old enemy would come back with an angry
roar of wind and rain, levelling tents, unroofing huts, destroying
roads, and handing over May to the command of General Fevrier. But the
sun fought bravely for us, and in time always dispersed the leaden
clouds and gilded the iron sky, and made us cheerful again. During the
end of March, the whole of April, and a considerable portion of May,
however, the army was but a little better off for the advent of
spring. The military road to the camp was only in progress--the
railway only carried ammunition. A few hours' rain rendered the old
road all but impassable, and scarcity often existed in the front
before Sebastopol, although the frightened and anxious Commissariat
toiled hard to avert such a mishap; so that very often to the British
Hotel came officers starved out on the heights above us. The dandies
of Rotten Row would come down riding on sorry nags, ready to carry
back--their servants were on duty in the trenches--anything that would
be available for dinner. A single glance at their personal appearance
would suffice to show the hardships of the life they were called upon
to lead. Before I left London for the seat of war I had been more than
once to the United Service Club, seeking to gain the interest of
officers whom I had known in Jamaica; and I often thought afterwards
of the difference between those I saw there trimly shaven, handsomely
dressed, with spotless linen and dandy air, and these their
companions, who in England would resemble them. Roughly, warmly
dressed, with great fur caps, which met their beards and left nothing
exposed but lips and nose, and not much of those; you would easily
believe that soap and water were luxuries not readily obtainable, that
shirts and socks were often comforts to dream about rather than
possess, and that they were familiar with horrors you would shudder to
hear named. Tell me, reader, can you fancy what the want of so simple
a thing as a pocket-handkerchief is? To put a case--have you ever gone
out for the day without one; sat in a draught and caught a sneezing
cold in the head? You say the question is an unnecessarily unpleasant
one, and yet what I am about to tell you is true, and the sufferer is,
I believe, still alive.

An officer had ridden down one day to obtain refreshments (this was very
early in the spring); some nice fowls had just been taken from the spit,
and I offered one to him. Paper was one of the most hardly obtainable
luxuries of the Crimea, and I rarely had any to waste upon my customers;
so I called out, "Give me your pocket-handkerchief, my son, that I may
wrap it up." You see we could not be very particular out there; but he
smiled very bitterly as he answered, "Pocket-handkerchief, mother--by
Jove! I wish I had one. I tore my last shirt into shreds a fortnight
ago, and there's not a bit of it left now."

Shortly after, a hundred dozen of these useful articles came to my
store, and I sold them all to officers and men very speedily.

For some time, and until I found the task beyond my strength, I kept
up a capital table at the British Hotel; but at last I gave up doing
so professedly, and my hungry customers had to make shift with
whatever was on the premises. Fortunately they were not over-dainty,
and had few antipathies. My duties increased so rapidly, that
sometimes it was with difficulty that I found time to eat and sleep.
Could I have obtained good servants, my daily labours would have been
lightened greatly; but my staff never consisted of more than a few
boys, two black cooks, some Turks--one of whom, Osman, had enough to
do to kill and pluck the poultry, while the others looked after the
stock and killed our goats and sheep--and as many runaway sailors or
good-for-noughts in search of employment as we could from time to time
lay our hands upon; but they never found my larder entirely empty. I
often used to roast a score or so of fowls daily, besides boiling hams
and tongues. Either these or a slice from a joint of beef or mutton
you would be pretty sure of finding at your service in the larder of
the British Hotel.

Would you like, gentle reader, to know what other things suggestive of
home and its comforts your relatives and friends in the Crimea could
obtain from the hostess of Spring Hill? I do not tell you that the
following articles were all obtainable at the commencement, but many
were. The time was indeed when, had you asked me for mock turtle and
venison, you should have had them, preserved in tins, but that was
when the Crimea was flooded with plenty--too late, alas! to save many
whom want had killed; but had you been doing your best to batter
Sebastopol about the ears of the Russians in the spring and summer of
the year before last, the firm of Seacole and Day would have been
happy to have served you with (I omit ordinary things) linen and
hosiery, saddlery, caps, boots and shoes, for the outer man; and for
the inner man, meat and soups of every variety in tins (you can
scarcely conceive how disgusted we all became at last with preserved
provisions); salmon, lobsters, and oysters, also in tins, which last
beaten up into fritters, with onions, butter, eggs, pepper, and salt,
were very good; game, wild fowl, vegetables, also preserved, eggs,
sardines, curry powder, cigars, tobacco, snuff, cigarette papers, tea,
coffee, tooth powder, and currant jelly. When cargoes came in from
Constantinople, we bought great supplies of potatoes, carrots,
turnips, and greens. Ah! what a rush there used to be for the greens.
You might sometimes get hot rolls; but, generally speaking, I bought
the Turkish bread (_ekmek_), baked at Balaclava.

Or had you felt too ill to partake of your rough camp fare, coarsely
cooked by a soldier cook, who, unlike the French, could turn his hand
to few things but fighting, and had ridden down that muddy road to the
Col, to see what Mother Seacole could give you for dinner, the chances
were you would have found a good joint of mutton, not of the fattest,
forsooth; for in such miserable condition were the poor beasts landed,
that once, when there came an urgent order from head-quarters for
twenty-five pounds of mutton, we had to cut up one sheep and a half
to provide the quantity; or you would have stumbled upon something
curried, or upon a good Irish stew, nice and hot, with plenty of
onions and potatoes, or upon some capital meat-pies. I found the
preserved meats were better relished cooked in this fashion, and well
doctored with stimulants. Before long I grew as familiar with the
mysteries of seasoning as any London pieman, and could accommodate
myself to the requirements of the seasons as readily. Or had there
been nothing better, you might have gone further and fared on worse
fare than one of my Welch rabbits, for the manufacture of which I
became so famous. And had you been fortunate enough to have visited
the British Hotel upon rice-pudding day, I warrant you would have
ridden back to your hut with kind thoughts of Mother Seacole's
endeavours to give you a taste of home. If I had nothing else to be
proud of, I think my rice puddings, made without milk, upon the high
road to Sebastopol, would have gained me a reputation. What a shout
there used to be when I came out of my little caboose, hot and
flurried, and called out, "Rice-pudding day, my sons." Some of them
were baked in large shallow pans, for the men and the sick, who always
said that it reminded them of home. You would scarcely expect to
finish up your dinner with pastry, but very often you would have found
a good stock of it in my larder. Whenever I had a few leisure moments,
I used to wash my hands, roll up my sleeves and roll out pastry. Very
often I was interrupted to dispense medicines; but if the tarts had a
flavour of senna, or the puddings tasted of rhubarb, it never
interfered with their consumption. I declare I never heard or read of
an army so partial to pastry as that British army before Sebastopol;
while I had a reputation for my sponge-cakes that any pastry-cook in
London, even Gunter, might have been proud of. The officers, full of
fun and high spirits, used to crowd into the little kitchen, and,
despite all my remonstrances, which were not always confined to words,
for they made me frantic sometimes, and an iron spoon is a tempting
weapon, would carry off the tarts hot from the oven, while the
good-for-nothing black cooks, instead of lending me their aid, would
stand by and laugh with all their teeth. And when the hot season
commenced, the crowds that came to the British Hotel for my claret and
cider cups, and other cooling summer drinks, were very complimentary
in their expressions of appreciation of my skill.

Now, supposing that you had made a hearty dinner and were thinking of
starting homeward--if I can use so pleasant a term in reference to
your cheerless quarters--it was very natural that you should be
anxious to carry back something to your hut. Perhaps you expected to
be sent into the trenches (many a supper cooked by me has been
consumed in those fearful trenches by brave men, who could eat it with
keen appetites while the messengers of death were speeding around
them); or perhaps you had planned a little dinner-party, and wanted to
give your friends something better than their ordinary fare. Anyhow,
you would in all probability have some good reason for returning laden
with comforts and necessaries from Spring Hill. You would not be very
particular about carrying them. You might have been a great swell at
home, where you would have shuddered if Bond Street had seen you
carrying a parcel no larger than your card-case; but those
considerations rarely troubled you here. Very likely, your servant was
lying crouched in a rifle pit, having "pots" at the Russians, or
keeping watch and ward in the long lines of trenches, or, stripped to
his shirt, shovelling powder and shot into the great guns, whose
steady roar broke the evening's calm. So if you did not wait upon
yourself, you would stand a very fair chance of being starved. But you
would open your knapsack, if you had brought one, for me to fill it
with potatoes, and halloo out, "Never mind, mother!" although the
gravy from the fowls on your saddle before you was soaking through the
little modicum of paper which was all I could afford you. So laden,
you would cheerfully start up the hill of mud hutward; and well for
you if you did not come to grief on that treacherous sea of mud that
lay swelling between the Col and your destination. Many a mishap,
ludicrous but for their consequences, happened on it. I remember a
young officer coming down one day just in time to carry off my last
fowl and meat pie. Before he had gone far, the horse so floundered in
the mud that the saddle-girths broke, and while the pies rolled into
the clayey soil in one direction, the fowl flew in another. To make
matters worse, the horse, in his efforts to extricate himself, did for
them entirely; and in terrible distress, the poor fellow came back for
me to set him up again. I shook my head for a long time, but at last,
after he had over and over again urged upon me pathetically that he
had two fellows coming to dine with him at six, and nothing in the
world in his hut but salt pork, I resigned a plump fowl which I had
kept back for my own dinner. Off he started again, but soon came back
with, "Oh, mother, I forgot all about the potatoes; they've all rolled
out upon that ---- road; you must fill my bag again." We all laughed
heartily at him, but this state of things _had_ been rather tragical.

Before I bring this chapter to a close, I should like, with the
reader's permission, to describe one day of my life in the Crimea.
They were all pretty much alike, except when there was fighting upon a
large scale going on, and duty called me to the field. I was generally
up and busy by daybreak, sometimes earlier, for in the summer my bed
had no attractions strong enough to bind me to it after four. There
was plenty to do before the work of the day began. There was the
poultry to pluck and prepare for cooking, which had been killed on the
previous night; the joints to be cut up and got ready for the same
purpose; the medicines to be mixed; the store to be swept and cleaned.
Of very great importance, with all these things to see after, were the
few hours of quiet before the road became alive with travellers. By
seven o'clock the morning coffee would be ready, hot and refreshing,
and eagerly sought for by the officers of the Army Works Corps engaged
upon making the great high-road to the front, and the Commissariat and
Land Transport men carrying stores from Balaclava to the heights.
There was always a great demand for coffee by those who knew its
refreshing and strengthening qualities, milk I could not give them (I
kept it in tins for special use); but they had it hot and strong, with
plenty of sugar and a slice of butter, which I recommend as a capital
substitute for milk. From that time until nine, officers on duty in
the neighbourhood, or passing by, would look in for breakfast, and
about half-past nine my sick patients began to show themselves. In
the following hour they came thickly, and sometimes it was past twelve
before I had got through this duty. They came with every variety of
suffering and disease; the cases I most disliked were the frostbitten
fingers and feet in the winter. That over, there was the hospital to
visit across the way, which was sometimes overcrowded with patients. I
was a good deal there, and as often as possible would take over books
and papers, which I used to borrow for that purpose from my friends
and the officers I knew. Once, a great packet of tracts was sent to me
from Plymouth anonymously, and these I distributed in the same manner.
By this time the day's news had come from the front, and perhaps among
the casualties over night there would be some one wounded or sick, who
would be glad to see me ride up with the comforts he stood most in
need of; and during the day, if any accident occurred in the
neighbourhood or on the road near the British Hotel, the men generally
brought the sufferer there, whence, if the hurt was serious, he would
be transferred to the hospital of the Land Transport opposite. I used
not always to stand upon too much ceremony when I heard of sick or
wounded officers in the front. Sometimes their friends would ask me to
go to them, though very often I waited for no hint, but took the
chance of meeting with a kind reception. I used to think of their
relatives at home, who would have given so much to possess my
privilege; and more than one officer have I startled by appearing
before him, and telling him abruptly that he must have a mother, wife,
or sister at home whom he missed, and that he must therefore be glad
of some woman to take their place.

Until evening the store would be filled with customers wanting
stores, dinners, and luncheons; loungers and idlers seeking
conversation and amusement; and at eight o'clock the curtain descended
on that day's labour, and I could sit down and eat at leisure. It was
no easy thing to clear the store, canteen, and yards; but we
determined upon adhering to the rule that nothing should be sold after
that hour, and succeeded. Any one who came after that time, came
simply as a friend. There could be no necessity for any one, except on
extraordinary occasions, when the rule could be relaxed, to purchase
things after eight o'clock. And drunkenness or excess were discouraged
at Spring Hill in every way; indeed, my few unpleasant scenes arose
chiefly from my refusing to sell liquor where I saw it was wanted to
be abused. I could appeal with a clear conscience to all who knew me
there, to back my assertion that I neither permitted drunkenness among
the men nor gambling among the officers. Whatever happened elsewhere,
intoxication, cards, and dice were never to be seen, within the
precincts of the British Hotel. My regulations were well known, and a
kind-hearted officer of the Royals, who was much there, and who
permitted me to use a familiarity towards him which I trust I never
abused, undertook to be my Provost-marshal, but his duties were very

At first we kept our store open on Sunday from sheer necessity, but
after a little while, when stores in abundance were established at
Kadikoi and elsewhere, and the absolute necessity no longer existed,
Sunday became a day of most grateful rest at Spring Hill. This step
also met with opposition from the men; but again we were determined,
and again we triumphed. I am sure we needed rest. I have often
wondered since how it was that I never fell ill or came home "on
urgent private affairs." I am afraid that I was not sufficiently
thankful to the Providence which gave me strength to carry out the
work I loved so well, and felt so happy in being engaged upon; but
although I never had a week's illness during my campaign, the labour,
anxiety, and perhaps the few trials that followed it, have told upon
me. I have never felt since that time the strong and hearty woman that
I was when I braved with impunity the pestilence of Navy Bay and
Cruces. It would kill me easily now.



In the last three chapters, I have attempted, without any
consideration of dates, to give my readers some idea of my life in the
Crimea. I am fully aware that I have jumbled up events strangely,
talking in the same page, and even sentence, of events which occurred
at different times; but I have three excuses to offer for my
unhistorical inexactness. In the first place, my memory is far from
trustworthy, and I kept no written diary; in the second place, the
reader must have had more than enough of journals and chronicles of
Crimean life, and I am only the historian of Spring Hill; and in the
third place, unless I am allowed to tell the story of my life in my
own way, I cannot tell it at all.

I shall now endeavour to describe my out-of-door life as much as
possible, and write of those great events in the field of which I was
a humble witness. But I shall continue to speak from my own experience
simply; and if the reader should be surprised at my leaving any
memorable action of the army unnoticed, he may be sure that it is
because I was mixing medicines or making good things in the kitchen of
the British Hotel, and first heard the particulars of it, perhaps,
from the newspapers which came from home. My readers must know, too,
that they were much more familiar with the history of the camp at
their own firesides, than we who lived in it. Just as a spectator
seeing one of the battles from a hill, as I did the Tchernaya, knows
more about it than the combatant in the valley below, who only thinks
of the enemy whom it is his immediate duty to repel; so you, through
the valuable aid of the cleverest man in the whole camp, read in the
_Times'_ columns the details of that great campaign, while we, the
actors in it, had enough to do to discharge our own duties well, and
rarely concerned ourselves in what seemed of such importance to you.
And so very often a desperate skirmish or hard-fought action, the news
of which created so much sensation in England, was but little regarded
at Spring Hill.

My first experience of battle was pleasant enough. Before we had been
long at Spring Hill, Omar Pasha got something for his Turks to do, and
one fine morning they were marched away towards the Russian outposts
on the road to Baidar. I accompanied them on horseback, and enjoyed
the sight amazingly. English and French cavalry preceded the Turkish
infantry over the plain yet full of memorials of the terrible Light
Cavalry charge a few months before; and while one detachment of the
Turks made a reconnaissance to the right of the Tchernaya, another
pushed their way up the hill, towards Kamara, driving in the Russian
outposts, after what seemed but a slight resistance. It was very
pretty to see them advance, and to watch how every now and then little
clouds of white smoke puffed up from behind bushes and the crests of
hills, and were answered by similar puffs from the long line of busy
skirmishers that preceded the main body. This was my first experience
of actual battle, and I felt that strange excitement which I do not
remember on future occasions, coupled with an earnest longing to see
more of warfare, and to share in its hazards. It was not long before
my wish was gratified.

I do not know much of the second bombardment of Sebastopol in the
month of April, although I was as assiduous as I could be in my
attendance at Cathcart's Hill. I could judge of its severity by the
long trains of wounded which passed the British Hotel. I had a
stretcher laid near the door, and very often a poor fellow was laid
upon it, outwearied by the terrible conveyance from the front.

After this unsuccessful bombardment, it seemed to us that there was a
sudden lull in the progress of the siege; and other things began to
interest us. There were several arrivals to talk over. Miss
Nightingale came to supervise the Balaclava hospitals, and, before
long, she had practical experience of Crimean fever. After her, came
the Duke of Newcastle, and the great high priest of the mysteries of
cookery, Mons. Alexis Soyer. He was often at Spring Hill, with the
most smiling of faces and in the most gorgeous of irregular uniforms,
and never failed to praise my soups and dainties. I always flattered
myself that I was his match, and with our West Indian dishes could of
course beat him hollow, and more than once I challenged him to a trial
of skill; but the gallant Frenchman only shrugged his shoulders, and
disclaimed my challenge with many flourishes of his jewelled hands,
declaring that Madame proposed a contest where victory would cost him
his reputation for gallantry, and be more disastrous than defeat. And
all because I was a woman, forsooth. What nonsense to talk like that,
when I was doing the work of half a dozen men. Then he would laugh and
declare that, when our campaigns were over, we would render rivalry
impossible, by combining to open the first restaurant in Europe. There
was always fun in the store when the good-natured Frenchman was there.

One dark, tempestuous night, I was knocked up by the arrival of other
visitors. These were the first regiment of Sardinian Grenadiers, who,
benighted on their way to the position assigned them, remained at
Spring Hill until the morning. We soon turned out our staff, and
lighted up the store, and entertained the officers as well as we could
inside, while the soldiers bivouacked in the yards around. Not a
single thing was stolen or disturbed that night, although they had
many opportunities. We all admired and liked the Sardinians; they were
honest, well-disciplined fellows, and I wish there had been no worse
men or soldiers in the Crimea.

As the season advanced many visitors came to the Crimea from all
parts of the world, and many of them were glad to make Spring Hill
their head-quarters. We should have been better off if some of them
had spared us this compliment. A Captain St. Clair, for instance--who
could doubt any one with such a name?--stayed some time with us, had
the best of everything, and paid us most honourably with one bill upon
his agents, while we cashed another to provide him with money for his
homeward route. He was an accomplished fellow, and I really liked him;
but, unfortunately for us, he was a swindler.

I saw much of another visitor to the camp in the Crimea--an old
acquaintance of mine with whom I had had many a hard bout in past
times--the cholera. There were many cases in the hospital of the Land
Transport Corps opposite, and I prescribed for many others personally.
The raki sold in too many of the stores in Balaclava and Kadikoi was
most pernicious; and although the authorities forbade the sutlers to
sell it, under heavy penalties, it found its way into the camp in
large quantities.

During May, and while preparations were being made for the third great
bombardment of the ill-fated city, summer broke beautifully, and the
weather, chequered occasionally by fitful intervals of cold and rain,
made us all cheerful. You would scarcely have believed that the happy,
good-humoured, and jocular visitors to the British Hotel were the same
men who had a few weeks before ridden gloomily through the muddy road
to its door. It was a period of relaxation, and they all enjoyed it.
Amusement was the order of the day. Races, dog-hunts, cricket-matches,
and dinner-parties were eagerly indulged in, and in all I could be of
use to provide the good cheer which was so essential a part of these
entertainments; and when the warm weather came in all its intensity,
and I took to manufacturing cooling beverages for my friends and
customers, my store was always full. To please all was somewhat
difficult, and occasionally some of them were scarcely so polite as
they should have been to a perplexed hostess, who could scarcely be
expected to remember that Lieutenant A. had bespoken his sangaree an
instant before Captain B. and his friends had ordered their claret

In anticipation of the hot weather, I had laid in a large stock of
raspberry vinegar, which, properly managed, helps to make a pleasant
drink; and there was a great demand for sangaree, claret, and cider
cups, the cups being battered pewter pots. Would you like, reader, to
know my recipe for the favourite claret cup? It is simple enough.
Claret, water, lemon-peel, sugar, nutmeg, and--ice--yes, ice, but not
often and not for long, for the eager officers soon made an end of it.
Sometimes there were dinner-parties at Spring Hill, but of these more
hereafter. At one of the earliest, when the _Times_ correspondent was
to be present, I rode down to Kadikoi, bought some calico and cut it
up into table napkins. They all laughed very heartily, and thought
perhaps of a few weeks previously, when every available piece of linen
in the camp would have been snapped up for pocket-handkerchiefs.

But the reader must not forget that all this time, although there
might be only a few short and sullen roars of the great guns by day,
few nights passed without some fighting in the trenches; and very
often the news of the morning would be that one or other of those I
knew had fallen. These tidings often saddened me, and when I awoke in
the night and heard the thunder of the guns fiercer than usual, I have
quite dreaded the dawn which might usher in bad news.

The deaths in the trenches touched me deeply, perhaps for this reason.
It was very usual, when a young officer was ordered into the trenches,
for him to ride down to Spring Hill to dine, or obtain something more
than his ordinary fare to brighten his weary hours in those fearful
ditches. They seldom failed on these occasions to shake me by the hand
at parting, and sometimes would say, "You see, Mrs. Seacole, I can't
say good-bye to the dear ones at home, so I'll bid you good-bye for
them. Perhaps you'll see them some day, and if the Russians should
knock me over, mother, just tell them I thought of them all--will
you?" And although all this might be said in a light-hearted manner,
it was rather solemn. I felt it to be so, for I never failed (although
who was I, that I should preach?) to say something about God's
providence and relying upon it; and they were very good. No army of
parsons could be much better than my sons. They would listen very
gravely, and shake me by the hand again, while I felt that there was
nothing in the world I would not do for them. Then very often the men
would say, "I'm going in with my master to-night, Mrs. Seacole; come
and look after him, if he's hit;" and so often as this happened I
would pass the night restlessly, awaiting with anxiety the morning,
and yet dreading to hear the news it held in store for me. I used to
think it was like having a large family of children ill with fever,
and dreading to hear which one had passed away in the night.

And as often as the bad news came, I thought it my duty to ride up to
the hut of the sufferer and do my woman's work. But I felt it deeply.
How could it be otherwise? There was one poor boy in the Artillery,
with blue eyes and light golden hair, whom I nursed through a long and
weary sickness, borne with all a man's spirit, and whom I grew to love
like a fond old-fashioned mother. I thought if ever angels watched
over any life, they would shelter his; but one day, but a short time
after he had left his sick-bed, he was struck down on his battery,
working like a young hero. It was a long time before I could banish
from my mind the thought of him as I saw him last, the yellow hair,
stiff and stained with his life-blood, and the blue eyes closed in the
sleep of death. Of course, I saw him buried, as I did poor H----
V----, my old Jamaica friend, whose kind face was so familiar to me of
old. Another good friend I mourned bitterly--Captain B----, of the
Coldstreams--a great cricketer. He had been with me on the previous
evening, had seemed dull, but had supped at my store, and on the
following morning a brother officer told me he was shot dead while
setting his pickets, which made me ill and unfit for work for the
whole day. Mind you, a day was a long time to give to sorrow in the

I could give many other similar instances, but why should I sadden
myself or my readers? Others have described the horrors of those fatal
trenches; but their real history has never been written, and perhaps
it is as well that so harrowing a tale should be left in oblivion.
Such anecdotes as the following were very current in the Camp, but I
have no means of answering for its truth. Two sergeants met in the
trenches, who had been schoolmates in their youth; years had passed
since they set out for the battle of life by different roads, and now
they met again under the fire of a common enemy. With one impulse they
started forward to exchange the hearty hand-shake and the mutual
greetings, and while their hands were still clasped, a chance shot
killed both.



Before I left the Crimea to return to England, the Adjutant-General of
the British Army gave me a testimonial, which the reader has already
read in Chapter XIV., in which he stated that I had "frequently
exerted myself in the most praiseworthy manner in attending wounded
men, even in positions of great danger." The simple meaning of this
sentence is that, in the discharge of what I conceived to be my duty,
I was frequently "under fire." Now I am far from wishing to speak of
this fact with any vanity or pride, because, after all, one soon gets
accustomed to it, and it fails at last to create more than temporary
uneasiness. Indeed, after Sebastopol was ours, you might often see
officers and men strolling coolly, even leisurely, across and along
those streets, exposed to the enemy's fire, when a little haste would
have carried them beyond the reach of danger. The truth was, I
believe, they had grown so habituated to being in peril from shot or
shell, that they rather liked the sensation, and found it difficult to
get on without a little gratuitous excitement and danger.

But putting aside the great engagements, where I underwent
considerable peril, one could scarcely move about the various camps
without some risk. The Russians had, it seemed, sunk great ships' guns
into the earth, from which they fired shot and shell at a very long
range, which came tumbling and plunging between, and sometimes into
the huts and tents, in a very unwieldy and generally harmless fashion.
Once when I was riding through the camp of the Rifles, a round shot
came plunging towards me, and before I or the horse had time to be
much frightened, the ugly fellow buried itself in the earth, with a
heavy "thud," a little distance in front of us.

In the first week of June, the third bombardment of Sebastopol opened,
and the Spring Hill visitors had plenty to talk about. Many were the
surmises as to when the assault would take place, of the success of
which nobody entertained a doubt. Somehow or other, important secrets
oozed out in various parts of the camp, which the Russians would have
given much to know, and one of these places was the British Hotel.
Some such whispers were afloat on the evening of Sunday the 17th of
June, and excited me strangely. Any stranger not in my secret would
have considered that my conduct fully justified my partner, Mr. Day,
in sending me home, as better fitted for a cell in Bedlam than the
charge of an hotel in the Crimea. I never remember feeling more
excited or more restless than upon that day, and no sooner had night
fairly closed in upon us than, instead of making preparations for bed,
this same stranger would have seen me wrap up--the nights were still
cold--and start off for a long walk to Cathcart's Hill, three miles
and a half away. I stayed there until past midnight, but when I
returned home, there was no rest for me; for I had found out that, in
the stillness of the night, many regiments were marching down to the
trenches, and that the dawn of day would be the signal that should let
them loose upon the Russians. The few hours still left before
daybreak, were made the most of at Spring Hill. We were all busily
occupied in cutting bread and cheese and sandwiches, packing up fowls,
tongues, and ham, wine and spirits, while I carefully filled the large
bag, which I always carried into the field slung across my shoulder,
with lint, bandages, needles, thread, and medicines; and soon after
daybreak everything was ready packed upon two mules, in charge of my
steadiest lad, and, I leading the way on horseback, the little
cavalcade left the British Hotel before the sun of the fatal 18th of
June had been many hours old.

It was not long before our progress was arrested by the cavalry
pickets closely stationed to stop all stragglers and spectators from
reaching the scene of action. But after a Blight parley and when they
found out who I was, and how I was prepared for the day's work, the
men raised a shout for me, and, with their officer's sanction, allowed
me to pass. So I reached Cathcart's Hill crowded with non-combatants,
and, leaving there the mules, loaded myself with what provisions I
could carry, and--it was a work of no little difficulty and
danger--succeeded in reaching the reserves of Sir Henry Barnard's
division, which was to have stormed something, I forget what; but when
they found the attack upon the Redan was a failure, very wisely
abstained. Here I found plenty of officers who soon relieved me of my
refreshments, and some wounded men who found the contents of my bag
very useful. At length I made my way to the Woronzoff Road, where the
temporary hospital had been erected, and there I found the doctors
hard enough at work, and hastened to help them as best I could. I
bound up the wounds and ministered to the wants of a good many, and
stayed there some considerable time.

Upon the way, and even here, I was "under fire." More frequently than
was agreeable, a shot would come ploughing up the ground and raising
clouds of dust, or a shell whizz above us. Upon these occasions those
around would cry out, "Lie down, mother, lie down!" and with very
undignified and unladylike haste I had to embrace the earth, and
remain there until the same voices would laughingly assure me that the
danger was over, or one, more thoughtful than the rest, would come to
give me a helping hand, and hope that the old lady was neither hit nor
frightened. Several times in my wanderings on that eventful day, of
which I confess to have a most confused remembrance, only knowing that
I looked after many wounded men, I was ordered back, but each time my
bag of bandages and comforts for the wounded proved my passport. While
at the hospital I was chiefly of use looking after those, who, either
from lack of hands or because their hurts were less serious, had to
wait, pained and weary, until the kind-hearted doctors--who, however,
_looked_ more like murderers--could attend to them. And the grateful
words and smile which rewarded me for binding up a wound or giving
cooling drink was a pleasure worth risking life for at any time. It
was here that I received my only wound during the campaign. I threw
myself too hastily on the ground, in obedience to the command of those
around me, to escape a threatening shell, and fell heavily on the
thumb of my right hand, dislocating it. It was bound up on the spot
and did not inconvenience me much, but it has never returned to its
proper shape.

After this, first washing my hands in some sherry from lack of water,
I went back to Cathcart's Hill, where I found my horse, and heard that
the good-for-nothing lad, either frightened or tired of waiting, had
gone away with the mules. I had to ride three miles after him, and
then the only satisfaction I had arose from laying my horse-whip about
his shoulders. After that, working my way round, how I can scarcely
tell, I got to the extreme left attack, where General Eyre's division
had been hotly engaged all day, and had suffered severely. I left my
horse in charge of some men, and with no little difficulty, and at no
little risk, crept down to where some wounded men lay, with whom I
left refreshments. And then--it was growing late--I started for Spring
Hill, where I heard all about the events of the luckless day from
those who had seen them from posts of safety, while I, who had been in
the midst of it all day, knew so little.

On the following day some Irishmen of the 8th Royals brought me, in
token of my having been among them, a Russian woman's dress and a poor
pigeon, which they had brought away from one of the houses in the
suburb where their regiment suffered so severely.

But that evening of the 18th of June was a sad one, and the news that
came in of those that had fallen were most heartrending. Both the
leaders, who fell so gloriously before the Redan, had been very good
to the mistress of Spring Hill. But a few days before the 18th, Col.
Y---- had merrily declared that I should have a silver salver to hand
about things upon, instead of the poor shabby one I had been reduced
to; while Sir John C---- had been my kind patron for some years. It
was in my house in Jamaica that Lady C---- had once lodged when her
husband was stationed in that island. And when the recall home came,
Lady C----, who, had she been like most women, would have shrunk from
any exertion, declared that she was a soldier's wife and would
accompany him. Fortunately the "Blenheim" was detained in the roads a
few days after the time expected for her departure, and I put into its
father's arms a little Scotchman, born within sight of the blue hills
of Jamaica. And yet with these at home, the brave general--as I read
in the _Times_ a few weeks later--displayed a courage amounting to
rashness, and, sending away his aides-de-camp, rushed on to a certain

On the following day, directly I heard of the armistice, I hastened to
the scene of action, anxious to see once more the faces of those who
had been so kind to me in life. That battle-field was a fearful sight
for a woman to witness, and if I do not pray God that I may never see
its like again, it is because I wish to be useful all my life, and it
is in scenes of horror and distress that a woman can do so much. It
was late in the afternoon, not, I think, until half-past four, that
the Russians brought over the bodies of the two leaders of yesterday's
assault. They had stripped Sir John of epaulettes, sword, and boots.
Ah! how my heart felt for those at home who would so soon hear of this
day's fatal work. It was on the following day, I think, that I saw
them bury him near Cathcart's Hill, where his tent had been pitched.
If I had been in the least humour for what was ludicrous, the looks
and curiosity of the Russians who saw me during the armistice would
have afforded me considerable amusement. I wonder what rank they
assigned me.

How true it is, as somebody has said, that misfortunes never come
singly. N.B. Pleasures often do. For while we were dull enough at this
great trouble, we had cholera raging around us, carrying off its
victims of all ranks. There was great distress in the Sardinian camp
on this account, and I soon lost another good customer, General E----,
carried off by the same terrible plague. Before Mrs. E---- left the
Crimea, she sent several useful things, kept back from the sale of the
general's effects. At this sale I wanted to buy a useful waggon, but
did not like to bid against Lord W----, who purchased it; but (I tell
this anecdote to show how kind they all were to me) when his lordship
heard of this he sent it over to Spring Hill, with a message that it
was mine for a far lower price than he had given for it. And since my
return home I have had to thank the same nobleman for still greater
favours. But who, indeed, has not been kind to me?

Within a week after General E----'s death, a still greater calamity
happened. Lord Raglan died--that great soldier who had such iron
courage, with the gentle smile and kind word that always show the
good man. I was familiar enough with his person; for, although people
did not know it in England, he was continually in the saddle looking
after his suffering men, and scheming plans for their benefit. And the
humblest soldier will remember that, let who might look stern and
distant, the first man in the British army ever had a kind word to
give him.

During the time he was ill I was at head-quarters several times, and
once his servants allowed me to peep into the room where their master
lay. I do not think they knew that he was dying, but they seemed very
sad and low--far more so than he for whom they feared. And on the day
of his funeral I was there again. I never saw such heartfelt gloom as
that which brooded on the faces of his attendants; but it was good to
hear how they all, even the humblest, had some kind memory of the
great general whom Providence had called from his post at such a
season of danger and distress. And once again they let me into the
room in which the coffin lay, and I timidly stretched out my hand and
touched a corner of the union-jack which lay upon it; and then I
watched it wind its way through the long lines of soldiery towards
Kamiesch, while, ever and anon, the guns thundered forth in sorrow,
not in anger. And for days after I could not help thinking of the
"Caradoc," which was ploughing its way through the sunny sea with its
sad burden.

It was not in the nature of the British army to remain long dull, and
before very long we went on gaily as ever, forgetting the terrible
18th of June, or only remembering it to look forward to the next
assault compensating for all. And once more the British Hotel was
filled with a busy throng, and laughter and fun re-echoed through its
iron rafters. Nothing of consequence was done in the front for weeks,
possibly because Mr. Russell was taking holiday, and would not return
until August.

About this time the stores of the British Hotel were well filled, not
only with every conceivable necessary of life, but with many of its
most expensive luxuries. It was at this period that you could have
asked for few things that I could not have supplied you with on the
spot, or obtained for you, if you had a little patience and did not
mind a few weeks' delay. Not only Spring Hill and Kadikoi, which--a
poor place enough when we came--had grown into a town of stores, and
had its market regulations and police, but the whole camp shared in
this unusual plenty. Even the men could afford to despise salt meat
and pork, and fed as well, if not better, than if they had been in
quarters at home. And there were coffee-houses and places of amusement
opened at Balaclava, and balls given in some of them, which raised my
temper to an unwonted pitch, because I foresaw the dangers which they
had for the young and impulsive; and sure enough they cost several
officers their commissions. Right glad was I one day when the great
purifier, Fire, burnt down the worst of these places and ruined its
owner, a bad Frenchwoman. And the railway was in full work, and the
great road nearly finished, and the old one passable, and the mules
and horses looked in such fair condition, that you would scarcely have
believed Farrier C----, of the Land Transport Corps, who would have
told you then, and will tell you now, that he superintended, on one
bleak morning of February, not six months agone, the task of throwing
the corpses of one hundred and eight mules over the cliffs at Karanyi
into the Black Sea beneath.

Of course the summer introduced its own plagues, and among the worst
of these were the flies. I shall never forget those Crimean flies, and
most sincerely hope that, like the Patagonians, they are only to be
found in one part of the world. Nature must surely have intended them
for blackbeetles, and accidentally given them wings. There was no
exterminating them--no thinning them--no escaping from them by night
or by day. One of my boys confined himself almost entirely to laying
baits and traps for their destruction, and used to boast that he
destroyed them at the rate of a gallon a day; but I never noticed any
perceptible decrease in their powers of mischief and annoyance. The
officers in the front suffered terribly from them. One of my kindest
customers, a lieutenant serving in the Royal Naval Brigade, who was a
close relative of the Queen, whose uniform he wore, came to me in
great perplexity. He evidently considered the fly nuisance the most
trying portion of the campaign, and of far more consequence than the
Russian shot and shell. "Mami," he said (he had been in the West
Indies, and so called me by the familiar term used by the Creole
children), "Mami, these flies respect nothing. Not content with eating
my prog, they set to at night and make a supper of me," and his face
showed traces of their attacks. "Confound them, they'll kill me, mami;
they're everywhere, even in the trenches, and you'd suppose they
wouldn't care to go there from choice. What can you do for me, mami?"

Not much; but I rode down to Mr. B----'s store, at Kadikoi, where I
was lucky in being able to procure a piece of muslin, which I pinned
up (time was too precious to allow me to use needle and thread) into a
mosquito net, with which the prince was delighted. He fell ill later
in the summer, when I went up to his quarters and did all I could for

As the summer wore on, busily passed by all of us at the British
Hotel, rumours stronger than ever were heard of a great battle soon to
be fought by the reinforcements which were known to have joined the
Russian army. And I think that no one was much surprised when one
pleasant August morning, at early dawn, heavy firing was heard towards
the French position on the right, by the Tchernaya, and the stream of
troops and on-lookers poured from all quarters in that direction.
Prepared and loaded as usual, I was soon riding in the same direction,
and saw the chief part of the morning's battle. I saw the Russians
cross and recross the river. I saw their officers cheer and wave them
on in the coolest, bravest manner, until they were shot down by
scores. I was near enough to hear at times, in the lull of artillery,
and above the rattle of the musketry, the excited cheers which told of
a daring attack or a successful repulse; and beneath where I stood I
could see--what the Russians could not--steadily drawn up, quiet and
expectant, the squadrons of English and French cavalry, calmly yet
impatiently waiting until the Russians' partial success should bring
their sabres into play. But the contingency never happened; and we saw
the Russians fall slowly back in good order, while the dark-plumed
Sardinians and red-pantalooned French spread out in pursuit, and
formed a picture so excitingly beautiful that we forgot the suffering
and death they left behind. And then I descended with the rest into
the field of battle.

It was a fearful scene; but why repeat this remark. All death is
trying to witness--even that of the good man who lays down his life
hopefully and peacefully; but on the battle-field, when the poor body
is torn and rent in hideous ways, and the scared spirit struggles to
loose itself from the still strong frame that holds it tightly to the
last, death is fearful indeed. It had come peacefully enough to some.
They lay with half-opened eyes, and a quiet smile about the lips that
showed their end to have been painless; others it had arrested in the
heat of passion, and frozen on their pallid faces a glare of hatred
and defiance that made your warm blood run cold. But little time had
we to think of the dead, whose business it was to see after the dying,
who might yet be saved. The ground was thickly cumbered with the
wounded, some of them calm and resigned, others impatient and
restless, a few filling the air with their cries of pain--all wanting
water, and grateful to those who administered it, and more substantial
comforts. You might see officers and strangers, visitors to the camp,
riding about the field on this errand of mercy. And this,
although--surely it could not have been intentional--Russian guns
still played upon the scene of action. There were many others there,
bent on a more selfish task. The plunderers were busy everywhere. It
was marvellous to see how eagerly the French stripped the dead of what
was valuable, not always, in their brutal work, paying much regard to
the presence of a lady. Some of the officers, when I complained rather
angrily, laughed, and said it was spoiling the Egyptians; but I _do_
think the Israelites spared their enemies those garments, which,
perhaps, were not so unmentionable in those days as they have since

I attended to the wounds of many French and Sardinians, and helped to
lift them into the ambulances, which came tearing up to the scene of
action. I derived no little gratification from being able to dress the
wounds of several Russians; indeed, they were as kindly treated as the
others. One of them was badly shot in the lower jaw, and was beyond my
or any human skill. Incautiously I inserted my finger into his mouth
to feel where the ball had lodged, and his teeth closed upon it, in
the agonies of death, so tightly that I had to call to those around to
release it, which was not done until it had been bitten so deeply that
I shall carry the scar with me to my grave. Poor fellow, he meant me
no harm, for, as the near approach of death softened his features, a
smile spread over his rough inexpressive face, and so he died.

I attended another Russian, a handsome fellow, and an officer, shot in
the side, who bore his cruel suffering with a firmness that was very
noble. In return for the little use I was to him, he took a ring off
his finger and gave it to me, and after I had helped to lift him into
the ambulance he kissed my hand and smiled far more thanks than I had
earned. I do not know whether he survived his wounds, but I fear not.
Many others, on that day, gave me thanks in words the meaning of which
was lost upon me, and all of them in that one common language of the
whole world--smiles.

I carried two patients off the field; one a French officer wounded on
the hip, who chose to go back to Spring Hill and be attended by me
there, and who, on leaving, told us that he was a relative of the
Marshal (Pelissier); the other, a poor Cossack colt I found running
round its dam, which lay beside its Cossack master dead, with its
tongue hanging from its mouth. The colt was already wounded in the
ears and fore-foot, and I was only just in time to prevent a French
corporal who, perhaps for pity's sake, was preparing to give it it's
_coup de grace_. I saved the poor thing by promising to give the
Frenchman ten shillings if he would bring it down to the British
Hotel, which he did that same evening. I attended to its hurts, and
succeeded in rearing it, and it became a great pet at Spring Hill, and
accompanied me to England.

I picked up some trophies from the battle-field, but not many, and
those of little value. I cannot bear the idea of plundering either the
living or the dead; but I picked up a Russian metal cross, and took
from the bodies of some of the poor fellows nothing of more value than
a few buttons, which I severed from their coarse grey coats.

So end my reminiscences of the battle of the Tchernaya, fought, as all
the world knows, on the 16th of August, 1855.



The three weeks following the battle of the Tchernaya were, I should
think, some of the busiest and most eventful the world has ever seen.
There was little doing at Spring Hill. Every one was either at his
post, or too anxiously awaiting the issue of the last great
bombardment to spend much time at the British Hotel. I think that I
lost more of my patients and customers during those few weeks than
during the whole previous progress of the siege. Scarce a night passed
that I was not lulled to sleep with the heavy continuous roar of the
artillery; scarce a morning dawned that the same sound did not usher
in my day's work. The ear grew so accustomed during those weeks to the
terrible roar, that when Sebastopol fell the sudden quiet seemed
unnatural, and made us dull. And during the whole of this time the
most perplexing rumours flew about, some having reference to the day
of assault, the majority relative to the last great effort which it
was supposed the Russians would make to drive us into the sea. I
confess these latter rumours now and then caused me temporary
uneasiness, Spring Hill being on the direct line of route which the
actors in such a tragedy must take.

I spent much of my time on Cathcart's Hill, watching, with a curiosity
and excitement which became intense, the progress of the terrible
bombardment. Now and then a shell would fall among the crowd of
on-lookers which covered the hill; but it never disturbed us, so keen
and feverish and so deadened to danger had the excitement and
expectation made us.

In the midst of the bombardment took place the important ceremony of
distributing the Order of the Bath to those selected for that honour.
I contrived to witness this ceremony very pleasantly; and although it
cost me a day, I considered that I had fairly earned the pleasure. I
was anxious to have some personal share in the affair, so I made, and
forwarded to head-quarters, a cake which Gunter might have been at
some loss to manufacture with the materials at my command, and which I
adorned gaily with banners, flags, etc. I received great kindness from
the officials at the ceremony, and from the officers--some of
rank--who recognised me; indeed, I held quite a little _levée_ around
my chair.

Well, a few days after this ceremony, I thought the end of the world,
instead of the war, was at hand, when every battery opened and poured
a perfect hail of shot and shell upon the beautiful city which I had
left the night before sleeping so calm and peaceful beneath the stars.
The firing began at early dawn, and was fearful. Sleep was impossible;
so I arose, and set out for my old station on Cathcart's Hill. And
here, with refreshments for the anxious lookers-on, I spent most of my
time, right glad of any excuse to witness the last scene of the siege.
It was from this spot that I saw fire after fire break out in
Sebastopol, and watched all night the beautiful yet terrible effect of
a great ship blazing in the harbour, and lighting up the adjoining
country for miles.

The weather changed, as it often did in the Crimea, most capriciously;
and the morning of the memorable 8th of September broke cold and
wintry. The same little bird which had let me into so many secrets,
also gave me a hint of what this day was pregnant with; and very early
in the morning I was on horseback, with my bandages and refreshments,
ready to repeat the work of the 18th of June last. A line of sentries
forbade all strangers passing through without orders, even to
Cathcart's Hill; but once more I found that my reputation served as a
permit, and the officers relaxed the rule in my favour everywhere. So,
early in the day, I was in my old spot, with my old appliances for the
wounded and fatigued; little expecting, however, that this day would
so closely resemble the day of the last attack in its disastrous

It was noon before the cannonading suddenly ceased; and we saw, with a
strange feeling of excitement, the French tumble out of their advanced
trenches, and roll into the Malakhoff like a human flood. Onward they
seemed to go into the dust and smoke, swallowed up by hundreds; but
they never returned, and before long we saw workmen levelling parapets
and filling up ditches, over which they drove, with headlong speed and
impetuosity, artillery and ammunition-waggons, until there could be no
doubt that the Malakhoff was taken, although the tide of battle still
surged around it with violence, and wounded men were borne from it in
large numbers. And before this, our men had made their attack, and the
fearful assault of the Redan was going on, and failing. But I was soon
too busy to see much, for the wounded were borne in even in greater
numbers than at the last assault; whilst stragglers, slightly hurt,
limped in, in fast-increasing numbers, and engrossed our attention. I
now and then found time to ask them rapid questions; but they did not
appear to know anything more than that everything had gone wrong. The
sailors, as before, showed their gallantry, and even recklessness,
conspicuously. The wounded of the ladder and sandbag parties came up
even with a laugh, and joked about their hurts in the happiest
conceivable manner.

I saw many officers of the 97th wounded; and, as far as possible, I
reserved my attentions for my old regiment, known so well in my native
island. My poor 97th! their loss was terrible. I dressed the wound of
one of its officers, seriously hit in the mouth; I attended to another
wounded in the throat, and bandaged the hand of a third, terribly
crushed by a rifle-bullet. In the midst of this we were often
interrupted by those unwelcome and impartial Russian visitors--the
shells. One fell so near that I thought my last hour was come; and,
although I had sufficient firmness to throw myself upon the ground, I
was so seriously frightened that I never thought of rising from my
recumbent position until the hearty laugh of those around convinced me
that the danger had passed by. Afterwards I picked up a piece of this
huge shell, and brought it home with me.

It was on this, as on every similar occasion, that I saw the _Times_
correspondent eagerly taking down notes and sketches of the scene,
under fire--listening apparently with attention to all the busy little
crowd that surrounded him, but without laying down his pencil; and yet
finding time, even in his busiest moment, to lend a helping hand to
the wounded. It may have been on this occasion that his keen eye
noticed me, and his mind, albeit engrossed with far more important
memories, found room to remember me. I may well be proud of his
testimony, borne so generously only the other day, and may well be
excused for transcribing it from the columns of the _Times_:--"I have
seen her go down, under fire, with her little store of creature
comforts for our wounded men; and a more tender or skilful hand about
a wound or broken limb could not be found among our best surgeons. I
saw her at the assault on the Redan, at the Tchernaya, at the fall of
Sebastopol, laden, not with plunder, good old soul! but with wine,
bandages, and food for the wounded or the prisoners."

I remained on Cathcart's Hill far into the night, and watched the city
blazing beneath us, awe-struck at the terrible sight, until the bitter
wind found its way through my thin clothing, and chilled me to the
bone; and not till then did I leave for Spring Hill. I had little
sleep that night. The night was made a ruddy lurid day with the glare
of the blazing town; while every now and then came reports which shook
the earth to its centre. And yet I believe very many of the soldiers,
wearied with their day's labour, slept soundly throughout that
terrible night, and awoke to find their work completed: for in the
night, covered by the burning city, Sebastopol was left, a heap of
ruins, to its victors; and before noon on the following day, none but
dead and dying Russians were in the south side of the once famous and
beautiful mistress-city of the Euxine.

The good news soon spread through the camp. It gave great pleasure;
but I almost think the soldiers would have been better pleased had the
Russians delayed their parting twelve hours longer, and given the
Highlanders and their comrades a chance of retrieving the disasters of
the previous day. Nothing else could wipe away the soreness of defeat,
or compensate for the better fortune which had befallen our allies the

The news of the evacuation of Sebastopol soon carried away all traces
of yesterday's fatigue. For weeks past I had been offering bets to
every one that I would not only be the first woman to enter
Sebastopol from the English lines, but that I would be the first to
carry refreshments into the fallen city. And now the time I had longed
for had come. I borrowed some mules from the Land Transport
Corps--mine were knocked up by yesterday's work--and loading them with
good things, started off with my partner and some other friends early
on that memorable Sunday morning for Cathcart's Hill.

When I found that strict orders had been given to admit no one inside
Sebastopol, I became quite excited; and making my way to General
Garrett's quarters, I made such an earnest representation of what I
considered my right that I soon obtained a pass, of which the
following is a copy:--

    "Pass Mrs. Seacole and her attendants, with refreshments
    for officers and soldiers in the Redan and in

        "Garrett, M.G.

            "Cathcart's Hill, Sept. 9, 1855."

So many attached themselves to my staff, becoming for the nonce my
attendants, that I had some difficulty at starting; but at last I
passed all the sentries safely, much to the annoyance of many
officers, who were trying every conceivable scheme to evade them, and
entered the city. I can give you no very clear description of its
condition on that Sunday morning, a year and a half ago. Many parts of
it were still blazing furiously--explosions were taking place in all
directions--every step had a score of dangers; and yet curiosity and
excitement carried us on and on. I was often stopped to give
refreshments to officers and men, who had been fasting for hours.
Some, on the other hand, had found their way to Russian cellars; and
one body of men were most ingloriously drunk, and playing the wildest
pranks. They were dancing, yelling, and singing--some of them with
Russian women's dresses fastened round their waists, and old bonnets
stuck upon their heads.

I was offered many trophies. All plunder was stopped by the sentries,
and confiscated, so that the soldiers could afford to be liberal. By one
I was offered a great velvet sofa; another pressed a huge arm-chair,
which had graced some Sebastopol study, upon me; while a third begged my
acceptance of a portion of a grand piano. What I did carry away was very
unimportant: a gaily-decorated altar-candle, studded with gold and
silver stars, which the present Commander-in-Chief condescended to
accept as a Sebastopol memorial; an old cracked China teapot, which in
happier times had very likely dispensed pleasure to many a small
tea-party; a cracked bell, which had rung many to prayers during the
siege, and which I bore away on my saddle; and a parasol, given me by a
drunken soldier. He had a silk skirt on, and torn lace upon his wrists,
and he came mincingly up, holding the parasol above his head, and
imitating the walk of an affected lady, to the vociferous delight of his
comrades. And all this, and much more, in that fearful charnel city,
with death and suffering on every side.

It was very hazardous to pass along some of the streets exposed to the
fire of the Russians on the north side of the harbour. We had to wait
and watch our opportunity, and then gallop for it. Some of us had
close shaves of being hit. More than this, fires still kept breaking
out around; while mines and fougasses not unfrequently exploded from
unknown causes. We saw two officers emerge from a heap of ruins,
covered and almost blinded with smoke and dust, from some such
unlooked-for explosion. With considerable difficulty we succeeded in
getting into the quarter of the town held by the French, where I was
nearly getting into serious trouble.

I had loitered somewhat behind my party, watching, with pardonable
curiosity, the adroitness with which a party of French were plundering
a house; and by the time my curiosity had been satisfied, I found
myself quite alone, my retinue having preceded me by some few hundred
yards. This would have been of little consequence, had not an American
sailor lad, actuated either by mischief or folly, whispered to the
Frenchmen that I was a Russian spy; and had they not, instead of
laughing at him, credited his assertion, and proceeded to arrest me.
Now, such a charge was enough to make a lion of a lamb; so I refused
positively to dismount, and made matters worse by knocking in the cap
of the first soldier who laid hands upon me, with the bell that hung
at my saddle. Upon this, six or seven tried to force me to the
guard-house in rather a rough manner, while I resisted with all my
force, screaming out for Mr. Day, and using the bell for a weapon. How
I longed for a better one I need not tell the reader. In the midst of
this scene came up a French officer, whom I recognised as the patient
I had taken to Spring Hill after the battle of the Tchernaya, and who
took my part at once, and ordered them to release me. Although I
rather weakened my cause, it was most natural that, directly I was
released, I should fly at the varlet who had caused me this trouble;
and I did so, using my bell most effectually, and aided, when my party
returned, by their riding-whips.

This little adventure took up altogether so much time that, when the
French soldiers had made their apologies to me, and I had returned the
compliment to the one whose head had been dented by my bell, it was
growing late, and we made our way back to Cathcart's Hill. On the way,
a little French soldier begged hard of me to buy a picture, which had
been cut from above the altar of some church in Sebastopol. It was too
dark to see much of his prize, but I ultimately became its possessor,
and brought it home with me. It is some eight or ten feet in length,
and represents, I should think, the Madonna. I am no judge of such
things, but I think, although the painting is rather coarse, that the
face of the Virgin, and the heads of Cherubim that fill the cloud from
which she is descending, are soft and beautiful. There is a look of
divine calmness and heavenly love in the Madonna's face which is very
striking; and, perhaps, during the long and awful siege many a knee
was bent in worship before it, and many a heart found comfort in its
soft loving gaze.

On the following day I again entered Sebastopol, and saw still more of
its horrors. But I have refrained from describing so many scenes of
woe, that I am loth to dwell much on these. The very recollection of
that woeful hospital, where thousands of dead and dying had been left
by the retreating Russians, is enough to unnerve the strongest and
sicken the most experienced. I would give much if I had never seen
that harrowing sight. I believe some Englishmen were found in it
alive; but it was as well that they did not live to tell their
fearful experience.

I made my way into the Redan also, although every step was dangerous,
and took from it some brown bread, which seemed to have been left in
the oven by the baker when he fled.

Before many days were passed, some Frenchwomen opened houses in
Sebastopol; but in that quarter of the town held by the English the
prospect was not sufficiently tempting for me to follow their example,
and so I saw out the remainder of the campaign from my old quarters at
Spring Hill.



Well, the great work was accomplished--Sebastopol was taken. The
Russians had retired sullenly to their stronghold on the north side of
the harbour, from which, every now and then, they sent a few vain shot
and shell, which sent the amateurs in the streets of Sebastopol
scampering, but gave the experienced no concern. In a few days the
camp could find plenty to talk about in their novel position--and what
then? What was to be done? More fighting? Another equally terrible and
lengthy siege of the north? That was the business of a few at
head-quarters and in council at home, between whom the electric wires
flashed many a message. In the meanwhile, the real workers applied
themselves to plan amusements, and the same energy and activity which
had made Sebastopol a heap of ruins and a well-filled cemetery--which
had dug the miles of trenches, and held them when made against a
desperate foe--which had manned the many guns, and worked them so
well, set to work as eager to kill their present enemy, Time, as they
had lately been to destroy their fled enemies, the Russians.

All who were before Sebastopol will long remember the beautiful autumn
which succeeded to so eventful a summer, and ushered in so pleasantly
the second winter of the campaign. It was appreciated as only those
who earn the right to enjoyment can enjoy relaxation. The camp was
full of visitors of every rank. They thronged the streets of
Sebastopol, sketching its ruins and setting up photographic apparatus,
in contemptuous indifference of the shot with which the Russians
generally favoured every conspicuous group.

Pleasure was hunted keenly. Cricket matches, pic-nics, dinner parties,
races, theatricals, all found their admirers. My restaurant was always
full, and once more merry laughter was heard, and many a dinner party
was held, beneath the iron roof of the British Hotel. Several were
given in compliment to our allies, and many distinguished Frenchmen
have tested my powers of cooking. You might have seen at one party
some of their most famous officers. At once were present a Prince of
the Imperial family of France, the Duc de Rouchefoucault, and a
certain corporal in the French service, who was perhaps the best known
man in the whole army, the Viscount Talon. They expressed themselves
highly gratified at the _carte_, and perhaps were not a little
surprised as course after course made its appearance, and to soup and
fish succeeded turkeys, saddle of mutton, fowls, ham, tongue, curry,
pastry of many sorts, custards, jelly, blanc-mange, and olives. I took
a peculiar pride in doing my best when they were present, for I knew a
little of the secrets of the French commissariat. I wonder if the
world will ever know more. I wonder if the system of secresy which has
so long kept veiled the sufferings of the French army before
Sebastopol will ever yield to truth. I used to guess something of
those sufferings when I saw, even after the fall of Sebastopol,
half-starved French soldiers prowling about my store, taking eagerly
even what the Turks rejected as unfit for human food; and no one could
accuse _them_ of squeamishness. I cannot but believe that in some
desks or bureaux lie notes or diaries which shall one day be given to
the world; and when this happens, the terrible distresses of the
English army will pall before the unheard-of sufferings of the French.
It is true that they carried from Sebastopol the lion's share of
glory. My belief is that they deserved it, having borne by far a
larger proportion of suffering.

There were few dinners at Spring Hill at which the guests did not show
their appreciation of their hostess's labour by drinking her health;
and at the dinner I have above alluded to, the toast was responded to
with such enthusiasm that I felt compelled to put my acknowledgments
into the form of a little speech, which Talon interpreted to his
countrymen. The French Prince was, after this occasion, several times
at the British Hotel. He was there once when some Americans were
received by me with scarcely that cordiality which I have been told
distinguished my reception of guests; and upon their leaving I told
him--quite forgetting his own connection with America--of my prejudice
against the Yankees. He heard me for a little while, and then he
interrupted me.

"Tenez! Madame Seacole, I too am American a little."

What a pity I was not born a countess! I am sure I should have made a
capital courtier. Witness my impromptu answer:--

"I should never have guessed it, Prince."--And he seemed amused.

With the theatricals directly I had nothing to do. Had I been a little
younger the companies would very likely have been glad of me, for no
one liked to sacrifice their beards to become Miss Julia or plain Mary
Ann; and even the beardless subalterns had voices which no coaxing
could soften down. But I lent them plenty of dresses; indeed, it was
the only airing which a great many gay-coloured muslins had in the
Crimea. How was I to know when I brought them what camp-life was? And
in addition to this, I found it necessary to convert my kitchen into a
temporary green-room, where, to the wonderment, and perhaps scandal,
of the black cook, the ladies of the company of the 1st Royals were
taught to manage their petticoats with becoming grace, and neither to
show their awkward booted ankles, nor trip themselves up over their
trains. It was a difficult task in many respects. Although I laced
them in until they grew blue in the face, their waists were a disgrace
to the sex; while--crinoline being unknown then--my struggles to give
them becoming _embonpoint_ may be imagined. It was not until a year
later that _Punch_ thought of using a clothes-basket; and I would have
given much for such a hint when I was dresser to the theatrical
company of the 1st Royals. The hair was another difficulty. To be
sure, there was plenty in the camp, only it was in the wrong place,
and many an application was made to me for a set of curls. However, I
am happy to say I am not become a customer of the wigmakers yet.

My recollections of hunting in the Crimea are confined to seeing
troops of horsemen sweep by with shouts and yells after some wretched
dog. Once I was very nearly frightened out of my wits--my first
impression being that the Russians had carried into effect their old
threat of driving us into the sea--by the startling appearance of a
large body of horsemen tearing down the hill after, apparently,
nothing. However I discovered in good time that, in default of vermin,
they were chasing a brother officer with a paper bag.

My experience of Crimean races are perfect, for I was present, in the
character of cantiniere, at all the more important meetings. Some of
them took place before Christmas, and some after; but I shall exhaust
the subject at once. I had no little difficulty to get the things on
to the course; and in particular, after I had sat up the whole night
making preparations for the December races, at the Monastery of St.
George, I could not get my poor mules over the rough country, and
found myself, in the middle of the day, some miles from the course. At
last I gave it up as hopeless, and, dismounting, sat down by the
roadside to consider how I could possibly dispose of the piles of
sandwiches, bread, cheese, pies, and tarts, which had been prepared
for the hungry spectators. At last, some officers, who expected me
long before, came to look after me, and by their aid we reached the

I was better off at the next meeting, for a kind-hearted Major of
Artillery provided me with a small bell-tent that was very useful, and
enabled me to keep my stores out of reach of the light-fingered
gentry, who were as busy in the Crimea as at Epsom or Hampton Court.
Over this tent waved the flag of the British Hotel, but, during the
day, it was struck, for an accident happening to one Captain D----, he
was brought to my tent insensible, where I quickly improvised a couch
of some straw, covered with the Union Jack, and brought him round. I
mention this trifle to show how ready of contrivance a little
campaigning causes one to become. I had several patients in
consequence of accidents at the races. Nor was I altogether free from
accidents myself. On the occasion of the races by the Tchernaya, after
the armistice, my cart, on turning a sudden bend in the steep track,
upset, and the crates, containing plates and dishes, rolled over and
over until their contents were completely broken up; so that I was
reduced to hand about sandwiches, etc., on broken pieces of
earthenware and scraps of paper. I saved some glasses, but not many,
and some of the officers were obliged to drink out of stiff paper
twisted into funnel-shaped glasses.

It was astonishing how well the managers of these Crimean races had
contrived to imitate the old familiar scenes at home. You might well
wonder where the racing saddles and boots, and silk caps and jackets
had come from; but our connection with England was very different to
what it had been when I first came to the Crimea, and many a wife and
sister's fingers had been busy making the racing gear for the Crimea
meetings. And in order that the course should still more closely
resemble Ascot or Epsom, some soldiers blackened their faces and came
out as Ethiopian serenaders admirably, although it would puzzle the
most ingenious to guess where they got their wigs and banjoes from. I
caught one of them behind my tent in the act of knocking off the neck
of a bottle of champagne, and, paralysed by the wine's hasty exit, the
only excuse he offered was, that he wanted to know if the officers'
luxury was better than rum.

A few weeks before Christmas, happened that fearful explosion, in the
French ammunition park, which destroyed so many lives. We had
experienced nothing at all like it before. The earth beneath us, even
at the distance of three miles, reeled and trembled with the shock;
and so great was the force of the explosion, that a piece of stone was
hurled with some violence against the door of the British Hotel. We
all felt for the French very much, although I do not think that the
armies agreed quite so well after the taking of the Malakhoff, and the
unsuccessful assault upon the Redan, as they had done previously. I
saw several instances of unpleasantness and collision, arising from
allusions to sore points. One, in particular, occurred in my store.

The French, when they wanted--it was very seldom--to wound the pride
of the English soldiery, used to say significantly, in that jargon by
which the various nations in the Crimea endeavoured to obviate the
consequences of what occurred at the Tower of Babel, some time ago,
"Malakhoff bono--Redan no bono." And this, of course, usually led to
recriminatory statements, and history was ransacked to find something
consolatory to English pride. Once I noticed a brawny man, of the Army
Works Corps, bringing a small French Zouave to my canteen, evidently
with the view of standing treat. The Frenchman seemed mischievously
inclined, and, probably relying upon the good humour on the
countenance of his gigantic companion, began a little playful
badinage, ending with the taunt of "Redan, no bono--Redan, no bono." I
never saw any man look so helplessly angry as the Englishman did. For
a few minutes he seemed absolutely rooted to the ground. Of course he
could have crushed his mocking friend with ease, but how could he
answer his taunt. All at once, however, a happy thought struck him,
and rushing up to the Zouave, he caught him round the waist and threw
him down, roaring out, "Waterloo was bono--Waterloo was bono." It was
as much as the people on the premises could do to part them, so
convulsed were we all with laughter.

And before Christmas, occurred my first and last attack of illness in
the Crimea. It was not of much consequence, nor should I mention it
but to show the kindness of my soldier-friends. I think it arose from
the sudden commencement of winter, for which I was but poorly
provided. However, I soon received much sympathy and many presents of
warm clothing, etc.; but the most delicate piece of attention was
shown me by one of the Sappers and Miners, who, hearing the report
that I was dead, positively came down to Spring Hill to take my
measure for a coffin. This may seem a questionable compliment, but I
really felt flattered and touched with such a mark of thoughtful
attention. Very few in the Crimea had the luxury of any better coffin
than a blanket-shroud, and it was very good of the grateful fellow to
determine that his old friend, the mistress of Spring Hill, should
have an honour conceded to so very few of the illustrious dead before

So Christmas came, and with it pleasant memories of home and of home
comforts. With it came also news of home--some not of the most
pleasant description--and kind wishes from absent friends. "A merry
Christmas to you," writes one, "and many of them. Although you will
not write to us, we see your name frequently in the newspapers, from
which we judge that you are strong and hearty. All your old Jamaica
friends are delighted to hear of you, and say that you are an honour
to the Isle of Springs."

I wonder if the people of other countries are as fond of carrying with
them everywhere their home habits as the English. I think not. I think
there was something purely and essentially English in the
determination of the camp to spend the Christmas-day of 1855 after the
good old "home" fashion. It showed itself weeks before the eventful
day. In the dinner parties which were got up--in the orders sent to
England--in the supplies which came out, and in the many applications
made to the hostess of the British Hotel for plum-puddings and
mince-pies. The demand for them, and the material necessary to
manufacture them, was marvellous. I can fancy that if returns could be
got at of the flour, plums, currants, and eggs consumed on
Christmas-day in the out-of-the-way Crimean peninsula, they would
astonish us. One determination appeared to have taken possession of
every mind--to spend the festive day with the mirth and jollity which
the changed prospect of affairs warranted; and the recollection of a
year ago, when death and misery were the camp's chief guests, only
served to heighten this resolve.

For three weeks previous to Christmas-day, my time was fully occupied
in making preparations for it. Pages of my books are filled with
orders for plum-puddings and mince-pies, besides which I sold an
immense quantity of raw material to those who were too far off to send
down for the manufactured article on Christmas-day, and to such
purchasers I gave a plain recipe for their guidance. Will the reader
take any interest in my Crimean Christmas-pudding? It was plain, but
decidedly good. However, you shall judge for yourself:--"One pound of
flour, three-quarters of a pound of raisins, three-quarters of a pound
of fat pork, chopped fine, two tablespoonfuls of sugar, a little
cinnamon or chopped lemon, half-pint of milk or water; mix these well
together, and boil four hours."

From an early hour in the morning until long after the night had set
in, were I and my cooks busy endeavouring to supply the great demand
for Christmas fare. We had considerable difficulty in keeping our
engagements, but by substituting mince-pies for plum-puddings, in a
few cases, we succeeded. The scene in the crowded store, and even in
the little over-heated kitchen, with the officers' servants, who came
in for their masters' dinners, cannot well be described. Some were
impatient themselves, others dreaded their masters' impatience as the
appointed dinner hour passed by--all combined by entreaties, threats,
cajolery, and fun to drive me distracted. Angry cries for the major's
plum-pudding, which was to have been ready an hour ago, alternated
with an entreaty that I should cook the captain's mince-pies to a
turn--"Sure, he likes them well done, ma'am. Bake 'em as brown as your
own purty face, darlint."

I did not get my dinner until eight o'clock, and then I dined in peace
off a fine wild turkey or bustard, shot for me on the marshes by the
Tchernaya. It weighed twenty-two pounds, and, although somewhat coarse
in colour, had a capital flavour.

Upon New Year's-day I had another large cooking of plum-puddings and
mince-pies; this time upon my own account. I took them to the hospital
of the Land Transport Corps, to remind the patients of the home
comforts they longed so much for. It was a sad sight to see the once
fine fellows, in their blue gowns, lying quiet and still, and reduced
to such a level of weakness and helplessness. They all seemed glad for
the little home tokens I took them.

There was one patient who had been a most industrious and honest
fellow, and who did not go into the hospital until long and wearing
illness compelled him. I was particularly anxious to look after him,
but I found him very weak and ill. I stayed with him until evening,
and before I left him, kind fancy had brought to his bedside his wife
and children from his village-home in England, and I could hear him
talking to them in a low and joyful tone. Poor, poor fellow! the New
Year so full of hope and happiness had dawned upon him, but he did not
live to see the wild flowers spring up peacefully through the
war-trodden sod before Sebastopol.



Before the New Year was far advanced we all began to think of going
home, making sure that peace would soon be concluded. And never did
more welcome message come anywhere than that which brought us
intelligence of the armistice, and the firing, which had grown more
and more slack lately, ceased altogether. Of course the army did not
desire peace because they had any distaste for fighting; so far from
it, I believe the only more welcome intelligence would have been news
of a campaign in the field, but they were most heartily weary of
sieges, and the prospect of another year before the gloomy north of
Sebastopol damped the ardour of the most sanguine. Before the
armistice was signed, the Russians and their old foes made advances of
friendship, and the banks of the Tchernaya used to be thronged with
strangers, and many strange acquaintances were thus began. I was one
of the first to ride down to the Tchernaya, and very much delighted
seemed the Russians to see an English woman. I wonder if they thought
they all had my complexion. I soon entered heartily into the then
current amusement--that of exchanging coin, etc., with the Russians. I
stole a march upon my companions by making the sign of the cross upon
my bosom, upon which a Russian threw me, in exchange for some pence, a
little metal figure of some ugly saint. Then we wrapped up halfpence
in clay, and received coins of less value in exchange. Seeing a
soldier eating some white bread, I made signs of wanting some, and
threw over a piece of money. I had great difficulty in making the man
understand me, but after considerable pantomime, with surprise in his
round bullet eyes, he wrapped up his bread in some paper, then coated
it with clay and sent it over to me. I thought it would look well
beside my brown bread taken from the strange oven in the terrible
Redan, and that the two would typify war and peace. There was a great
traffic going on in such things, and a wag of an officer, who could
talk Russian imperfectly, set himself to work to persuade an innocent
Russian that I was his wife, and having succeeded in doing so promptly
offered to dispose of me for the medal hanging at his breast.

The last firing of any consequence was the salutes with which the good
tidings of peace were received by army and navy. After this soon began
the home-going with happy faces and light hearts, and some kind
thoughts and warm tears for the comrades left behind.

I was very glad to hear of peace, also, although it must have been
apparent to every one that it would cause our ruin. We had lately made
extensive additions to our store and out-houses--our shelves were
filled with articles laid in at a great cost, and which were now
unsaleable, and which it would be equally impossible to carry home.
Everything, from our stud of horses and mules down to our latest
consignments from home, must be sold for any price; and, as it
happened, for many things, worth a year ago their weight in gold, no
purchaser could now be found. However, more of this hereafter.

Before leaving the Crimea, I made various excursions into the
interior, visiting Simpheropol and Baktchiserai. I travelled to
Simpheropol with a pretty large party, and had a very amusing journey.
My companions were young and full of fun, and tried hard to persuade
the Russians that I was Queen Victoria, by paying me the most absurd
reverence. When this failed they fell back a little, and declared that
I was the Queen's first cousin. Anyhow, they attracted crowds about
me, and I became quite a lioness in the streets of Simpheropol, until
the arrival of some Highlanders in their uniform cut me out.

My excursion to Baktchiserai was still more amusing and pleasant. I
found it necessary to go to beat up a Russian merchant, who, after the
declaration of peace, had purchased stores of us, and some young
officers made up a party for the purpose. We hired an araba, filled it
with straw, and some boxes to sit upon, and set out very early, with
two old umbrellas to shield us from the mid-day sun and the night
dews. We had with us a hamper carefully packed, before parting, with a
cold duck, some cold meat, a tart, etc. The Tartar's two horses were
soon knocked up, and the fellow obtained a third at a little village,
and so we rolled on until mid-day, when, thoroughly exhausted, we left
our clumsy vehicle and carried our hamper beneath the shade of a
beautiful cherry-tree, and determined to lunch. Upon opening it the
first thing that met our eyes was a fine rat, who made a speedy
escape. Somewhat gravely, we proceeded to unpack its contents, without
caring to express our fears to one another, and quite soon enough we
found them realized. How or where the rat had gained access to our
hamper it was impossible to say, but he had made no bad use of his
time, and both wings of the cold duck had flown, while the tart was
considerably mangled. Sad discovery this for people who, although,
hungry, were still squeamish. We made out as well as we could with the
cold beef, and gave the rest to our Tartar driver, who had apparently
no disinclination to eating after the rat, and would very likely have
despised us heartily for such weakness. After dinner we went on more
briskly, and succeeded in reaching Baktchiserai. My journey was
perfectly unavailing. I could not find my debtor at home, and if I had
I was told it would take three weeks before the Russian law would
assist me to recover my claim. Determined, however, to have some
compensation, I carried off a raven, who had been croaking angrily at
my intrusion. Before we had been long on our homeward journey,
however, Lieut. C---- sat upon it, of course accidentally, and we
threw it to its relatives--the crows.

As the spring advanced, the troops began to move away at a brisk pace.
As they passed the Iron House upon the Col--old for the Crimea, where
so much of life's action had been compressed into so short a space of
time--they would stop and give us a parting cheer, while very often
the band struck up some familiar tune of that home they were so gladly
seeking. And very often the kind-hearted officers would find time to
run into the British Hotel to bid us good-bye, and give us a farewell
shake of the hand; for you see war, like death, is a great leveller,
and mutual suffering and endurance had made us all friends. "My dear
Mrs. Seacole, and my dear Mr. Day," wrote one on a scrap of paper left
on the counter, "I have called here four times this day, to wish you
good-bye. I am so sorry I was not fortunate enough to see you. I shall
still hope to see you to-morrow morning. We march at seven a.m."

And yet all this going home seemed strange and somewhat sad, and
sometimes I felt that I could not sympathise with the glad faces and
happy hearts of those who were looking forward to the delights of
home, and the joy of seeing once more the old familiar faces
remembered so fondly in the fearful trenches and the hard-fought
battle-fields. Now and then we would see a lounger with a blank face,
taking no interest in the bustle of departure, and with him I
acknowledged to have more fellow-feeling than with the others, for he,
as well as I, clearly had no home to go to. He was a soldier by choice
and necessity, as well as by profession. He had no home, no loved
friends; the peace would bring no particular pleasure to him, whereas
war and action were necessary to his existence, gave him excitement,
occupation, the chance of promotion. Now and then, but seldom,
however, you came across such a disappointed one. Was it not so with
me? Had I not been happy through the months of toil and danger, never
knowing what fear or depression was, finding every moment of the day
mortgaged hours in advance, and earning sound sleep and contentment by
sheer hard work? What better or happier lot could possibly befall me?
And, alas! how likely was it that my present occupation gone, I might
long in vain for another so stirring and so useful. Besides which, it
was pretty sure that I should go to England poorer than I left it,
and although I was not ashamed of poverty, beginning life again in
the autumn--I mean late in the summer of life--is hard up-hill work.

Peace concluded, the little jealousies which may have sprung up
between the French and their allies seemed forgotten, and every one
was anxious, ere the parting came, to make the most of the time yet
left in improving old friendships and founding new. Among others, the
47th, encamped near the Woronzoff Road, gave a grand parting
entertainment to a large company of their French neighbours, at which
many officers of high rank were present. I was applied to by the
committee of management to superintend the affair, and, for the last
time in the Crimea, the health of Madame Seacole was proposed and duly
honoured. I had grown so accustomed to the honour that I had no
difficulty in returning thanks in a speech which Colonel B----
interpreted amid roars of laughter to the French guests.

As the various regiments moved off, I received many acknowledgments
from those who thought they owed me gratitude. Little presents, warm
farewell words, kind letters full of grateful acknowledgments for
services so small that I had forgotten them long, long ago--how easy
it is to reach warm hearts!--little thoughtful acts of kindness, even
from the humblest. And these touched me the most. I value the letters
received from the working men far more than the testimonials of their
officers. I had nothing to gain from the former, and can point to
their testimony fearlessly. I am strongly tempted to insert some of
these acknowledgments, but I will confine myself to one:--

    "Camp, near Karani, June 16, 1856.

    "My dear Mrs. Seacole,--As you are about to leave the
    Crimea, I avail myself of the only opportunity which may
    occur for some time, to acknowledge my gratitude to you,
    and to thank you for the kindness which I, in common
    with many others, received at your hands, when attacked
    with cholera in the spring of 1855. But I have no
    language to do it suitably.

    "I am truly sensible that your kindness far exceeded my
    claims upon your sympathy. It is said by some of your
    friends, I hope truly, that you are going to England.
    There can be none from the Crimea more welcome there,
    for your kindness in the sick-tent, and your heroism in
    the battle-field, have endeared you to the whole army.

    "I am sure when her most gracious Majesty the Queen
    shall have become acquainted with the service you have
    gratuitously rendered to so many of her brave soldiers,
    her generous heart will thank you. For you have been an
    instrument in the hands of the Almighty to preserve many
    a gallant heart to the empire, to fight and win her
    battles, if ever again war may become a necessity.
    Please to accept this from your most grateful humble

        "W. J. Tynan."

But I had other friends in the Crimea--friends who could never thank
me. Some of them lay in their last sleep, beneath indistinguishable
mounds of earth; some in the half-filled trenches, a few beneath the
blue waters of the Euxine. I might in vain attempt to gather the wild
flowers which sprung up above many of their graves, but I knew where
some lay, and could visit their last homes on earth. And to all the
cemeteries where friends rested so calmly, sleeping well after a
life's work nobly done, I went many times, lingering long over many a
mound that bore the names of those whom I had been familiar with in
life, thinking of what they had been, and what I had known of them.
Over some I planted shrubs and flowers, little lilac trees, obtained
with no small trouble, and flowering evergreens, which looked quite
gay and pretty ere I left, and may in time become great trees, and
witness strange scenes, or be cut down as fuel for another besieging
army--who can tell? And from many graves I picked up pebbles, and
plucked simple wild-flowers, or tufts of grass, as memorials for
relatives at home. How pretty the cemeteries used to look beneath the
blue peaceful sky; neatly enclosed with stone walls, and full of the
grave-stones reared by friends over friends. I met many here,
thoughtfully taking their last look of the resting-places of those
they knew and loved. I saw many a proud head bowed down above them. I
knew that many a proud heart laid aside its pride here, and stood in
the presence of death, humble and childlike. And by the clasped hand
and moistened eye, I knew that from many a heart sped upward a
grateful prayer to the Providence which had thought fit in his
judgment to take some, and in his mercy to spare the rest.

Some three weeks before the Crimea was finally evacuated, we moved
from our old quarters to Balaclava, where we had obtained permission
to fit up a store for the short time which would elapse before the
last red coat left Russian soil. The poor old British Hotel! We could
do nothing with it. The iron house was pulled down, and packed up for
conveyance home, but the Russians got all of the out-houses and sheds
which was not used as fuel. All the kitchen fittings and stoves, that
had cost us so much, fell also into their hands. I only wish some cook
worthy to possess them has them now. We could sell nothing. Our horses
were almost given away, our large stores of provisions, etc., were at
any one's service. It makes my heart sick to talk of the really
alarming sacrifices we made. The Russians crowded down ostensibly to
purchase, in reality to plunder. Prime cheeses, which had cost us
tenpence a pound, were sold to them for less than a penny a pound; for
wine, for which we had paid forty-eight shillings a dozen, they bid
four shillings. I could not stand this, and in a fit of desperation, I
snatched up a hammer and broke up case after case, while the
bystanders held out their hands and caught the ruby stream. It may
have been wrong, but I was too excited to think. There was no more of
my own people to give it to, and I would rather not present it to our
old foes.

We were among the last to leave the Crimea. Before going I borrowed a
horse, easy enough now, and rode up the old well-known road--how
unfamiliar in its loneliness and quiet--to Cathcart's Hill. I wished
once more to impress the scene upon my mind. It was a beautifully
clear evening, and we could see miles away across the darkening sea. I
spent some time there with my companions, pointing out to each other
the sites of scenes we all remembered so well. There were the
trenches, already becoming indistinguishable, out of which, on the 8th
of September, we had seen the storming parties tumble in confused and
scattered bodies, before they ran up the broken height of the Redan.
There the Malakhoff, into which we had also seen the luckier French
pour in one unbroken stream; below lay the crumbling city and the
quiet harbour, with scarce a ripple on its surface, while around
stretched away the deserted huts for miles. It was with something like
regret that we said to one another that the play was fairly over, that
peace had rung the curtain down, and that we, humble actors in some of
its most stirring scenes, must seek engagements elsewhere.

I lingered behind, and stooping down, once more gathered little tufts
of grass, and some simple blossoms from above the graves of some who
in life had been very kind to me, and I left behind, in exchange, a
few tears which were sincere.

A few days latter, and I stood on board a crowded steamer, taking my
last look of the shores of the Crimea.


I did not return to England by the most direct route, but took the
opportunity of seeing more of men and manners in yet other lands.
Arrived in England at last, we set to work bravely at Aldershott to
retrieve our fallen fortunes, and stem off the ruin originated in the
Crimea, but all in vain; and at last defeated by fortune, but not I
think disgraced, we were obliged to capitulate on very honourable
conditions. In plain truth, the old Crimean firm of Seacole and Day
was dissolved finally, and its partners had to recommence the world
anew. And so ended _our_ campaign. One of us started only the other
day for the Antipodes, while the other is ready to take any journey to
any place where a stout heart and two experienced hands may be of use.

Perhaps it would be right if I were to express more shame and
annoyance than I really feel at the pecuniarily disastrous issue of my
Crimean adventures, but I cannot--I really cannot. When I would try
and feel ashamed of myself for being poor and helpless, I only
experience a glow of pride at the other and more pleasing events of my
career; when I think of the few whom I failed to pay in full (and so
far from blaming me some of them are now my firmest friends), I cannot
help remembering also the many who profess themselves indebted to me.

Let me, in as few words as possible, state the results of my Crimean
campaign. To be sure, I returned from it shaken in health. I came home
wounded, as many others did. Few constitutions, indeed, were the
better for those winters before Sebastopol, and I was too hard worked
not to feel their effects; for a little labour fatigues me now--I
cannot watch by sick-beds as I could--a week's want of rest quite
knocks me up now. Then I returned bankrupt in fortune. Whereas others
in my position may have come back to England rich and prosperous, I
found myself poor--beggared. So few words can tell what I have lost.

But what have I gained? I should need a volume to describe that
fairly; so much is it, and so cheaply purchased by suffering ten times
worse than what I have experienced. I have more than once heard people
say that they would gladly suffer illness to enjoy the delights of
convalescence, and so, by enduring a few days' pain, gain the tender
love of relatives and sympathy of friends. And on this principle I
rejoice in the trials which have borne me such pleasures as those I
now enjoy, for wherever I go I am sure to meet some smiling face;
every step I take in the crowded London streets may bring me in
contact with some friend, forgotten by me, perhaps, but who soon
reminds me of our old life before Sebastopol; it seems very long ago
now, when I was of use to him and he to me.

Where, indeed, do I not find friends. In omnibuses, in river
steamboats, in places of public amusement, in quiet streets and
courts, where taking short cuts I lose my way oft-times, spring up old
familiar faces to remind me of the months spent on Spring Hill. The
sentries at Whitehall relax from the discharge of their important duty
of guarding nothing to give me a smile of recognition; the very
newspaper offices look friendly as I pass them by; busy Printing-house
Yard puts on a cheering smile, and the _Punch_ office in Fleet Street
sometimes laughs outright. Now, would all this have happened if I had
returned to England a rich woman? Surely not.

A few words more ere I bring these egotistical remarks to a close. It
is naturally with feelings of pride and pleasure that I allude to the
committee recently organized to aid me; and if I indulge in the vanity
of placing their names before my readers, it is simply because every
one of the following noblemen and gentlemen knew me in the Crimea, and
by consenting to assist me now record publicly their opinion of my
services there. And yet I may reasonably on other grounds be proud of
the fact, that it has been stated publicly that my present
embarrassments originated in my charities and incessant labours among
the army, by

    Major-General Lord Rokeby, K.C.B.
    H.S.H. Prince Edward of Saxe Weimar, C.B.
    His Grace the Duke of Wellington.
    His Grace the Duke of Newcastle.
    The Right Hon. Lord Ward.
    General Sir John Burgoyne, K.C.B.
    Major-General Sir Richard Airey, K.C.B.
    Rear-Admiral Sir Stephen Lushington, K.C.B.
    Colonel M'Murdo, C.B.
    Colonel Chapman, C.B.
    Lieutenant-Colonel Ridley, C.B.
    Major the Hon. F. Keane.
    W. H. Russell, Esq. (_Times_ Correspondent).
    W. T. Doyne, Esq.


London: Printed by Thomas Harrild, 11, Salisbury Square, Fleet Street.

Transcriber's Note

Minor typographic errors have been corrected without note.

Page 42--omitted 'I' added--"I must do them credit to say, that they
were never loath ..."

Page 94--omitted 'the' added--"... which is hired by the Government, at
great cost ..."

There are also a few Scots words in this text. These include 'waesome',
meaning sorrowful, woeful; and 'brash', meaning attack. Some archaic
spelling is also used (for example, secresy), which has been retained.

The few oe ligatures have not been retained in this version.

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