Nurse in Love, страница 1
NURSE IN LOVE
Before they had even met, Adam Brand was prejudiced against Kathryn. He gave her absolutely no chance to clear up his misconceptions. Though they had to work together every day on the children’s ward, pride kept Kathryn from admitting that she loved him.
But she soon found that pride was a very inadequate defence.
Outside, the September evening would be light for an hour or two yet, but within the small, intimate restaurant which Kathryn had chosen, the tables were already softly lighted and the strident noises of the street were subdued.
Kathryn took the chair which the waiter drew out for her, while Sara edged her way in to the cushioned window-seat where she sat looking about her with eager interest while Kathryn bent her dark head over the menu which was handed to her.
Presently she passed it to Sara with a smile. “I’m having grilled trout, with roast duckling to follow. French beans, orange salad and all the trimmings! For this evening I’m getting just as far as possible away from hospital food,” she declared. “What about you, Sara? The same, or is there anything you fancy more?”
But Sara’s first glance at the menu clouded her blue eyes as she raised them to Kathryn’s. “I’d love trout and duckling,” she admitted in a whisper. “But—but everything is terribly expensive, isn’t it?”
Kathryn laughed as she took the card from her, folded it and gave it back to the waiter with a conclusive gesture. “Sara dear,” she said, “this is a very special evening—my treat to you and your privilege to choose exactly what you’d like, regardless of expense. Agreed?”
Sara flushed. “I’m sorry, Kathryn. It is sweet of you to bring me out to dinner to celebrate my passing out from training-school to-day and that was ill-mannered of me. But you do understand, don’t you, that the habit of always having to choose the cheapest food that’s eatable dies rather hard?”
Kathryn’s answering smile was gentle as she pitied the girl the bitter worldly experience which at nineteen had taught her that when you were poor, to go short of food seemed the most obvious economy. But Sara should be able to forget all that now. From now on she would certainly not be rich, but she and six-year-old Carol would be secure. That was something which, Kathryn realised gratefully, had already stripped Sara of the veneer of false confidence and bravado which, only a few months ago, she had worn like a protective shell. Now she was young again, a little shy, even biddable, and in her simple white-collared dress and with her straight, square-cut hair framing her eager face, looking to-night not very much older or more experienced than Carol herself.
Kathryn said lightly: “Well, at least in hospital one has little option and few temptations with regard to food. The cooking and the meals at the Wardrop are really quite good, I suppose. But there’s still something uninspiring about community eating, which is why I’m so grateful to you for giving me an excuse for to-night’s self-indulgence!”
“You didn’t really need me as an excuse,” Sara chuckled delightedly as she attacked her trout.
“But I did. Believe it or not, 1 have a parsimonious conscience which has to be reasoned with, though it was gracious enough to regard your passing out as worthy of celebration,” Kathryn assured her in mock gravity.
Sara sat back suddenly and drew a deep breath. “It’s rather marvellous, isn’t it?” she asked.
“Well, everything. Imagine—it’s only about four months since I was in that beastly job, and Carol and I were living in that bed-sitter, even though Mrs. Green wasn’t too bad a landlady. At least she would always look after Carol while I was at work.”
“It’s all over now,” Kathryn reminded her.
“Yes—and that’s what’s so wonderful—that it’s over, thanks to you ”
“I couldn’t have done a thing for either of you if you hadn’t co-operated. You were so wary and prickly at first that I never dreamed you would. Even if, that is, I had had any idea at first of what to suggest you should do.”
“That’s odd, really,” mused Sara. “Because I was so afraid of being trapped that I actually wondered whether somebody—a welfare society or something—had found out where I was working and had sent you into the shop as a sort of decoy. You see. I was terrified they could say I wasn’t fit or old enough to have the care of Carol and that they could separate us by force.”
“I know. You shied like a frightened fawn at the very word ‘Welfare’. But I do assure you again that my coming into the shop—even my happening to explore that Soho street—was the merest chance. And I came in then because I was quite attracted by the dress in the window—the one which, incidentally, you did your best not to bring out to show me!”
Sara flinched at the memory. “It was horrible. You can’t imagine the humiliation of having to listen to the things some of the customers said when we had to try to edge them away from the window models, which were only there as ‘catches’. Madame wouldn’t allow us to sell them unless we completely failed to sell a stock model instead.”
“They were utter rubbish,” put in Kathryn.
“I know they were. But, you see, we had to do our best with them, because if we were forced to sell a dress from the window Madame wouldn’t pay our commission on it.”
“And unless you earned some commission you couldn’t possibly live on your pay.” Anger quivered in Kathryn’s voice.
“No. And there was Carol too.”
“Well, it baffles me how you thought you could possibly do it, Sara. When your parents died wasn’t there anyone to whom you could have turned for advice?”
Sara’s mouth set stubbornly. “No one who wouldn’t have taken Carol away from me. I had to get a job quickly after Mummy’s and Daddy’s accident, and this was the only one that offered at first. Afterwards I was afraid to give it up for fear of being out of work for even a week. Then you came—”
“Yes, and I believed I recognised you from the start. That was why I let you go on persuading me that that hideous magenta creation was ‘just your style, Madam’! Didn’t you remember me at all, Sara?”
“No, I didn’t. You see, when we lived next door to each other at Henslow, before my people moved, you were six years older than I was. So I hadn’t any picture of you in my mind, though I suppose I should have remembered how dark your hair was, and—well, other things. Your sort of—generous mouth, and the dimple that’s not much more than a suggestion of one, and that tilted nose The only excuse I have is that, I suppose, when you are a child the people you know well aren’t much more than recognisable shapes—you don’t stop to analyse their faces at all.”
Kathryn laughed. “Well, you didn’t know, me, did you? And you were so reticent and difficult that day that I really doubted whether you would keep the appointment that I had almost to force from you. If you hadn’t, I’d have been disappointed, because by then I was quite taken with the plan I had thought out for you and Carol. But I may say 1 dreaded having to persuade you to it. For one thing, I didn’t know you’d always been attracted to nursing if you had known how to go about it and keep Carol too.”
Across the table tears glistened momentarily in Sara’s eyes. “You didn’t realise the sort of salvation it seemed to open up—your friends, Mr. and Mrs. Thorley, being willing to take Carol, actually wanting her because they had lost their own baby, and my being able to come to the Wardrop as a student nurse, so that I’d be kept and paid and trained and have a career and be quite independent by the time I can take Carol back again!”
“You may marry. Lots of nurses do,” Kathryn reminded her.
The fair, short hair stood out fanwise as Sara’s head shook in vigorous denial. “Marry? Not until I’m State Registered, at least. I’m stayin
There was a little pause. Then: “Yes, I suppose so,” said Kathryn.
“You mean that you have refused someone? Not that?” Sara broke off, her voice a little troubled.
Kathryn smiled. “I didn’t mean I’d been disappointed in love, only that I did refuse to marry a doctor at the Wardrop who was going out to West Africa. But ‘choice’ didn’t really enter into that. You don’t ‘choose’ not to marry a man you don’t love—you don’t entertain the idea at all. I didn’t, with Steven Carter.”
Sara sighed in relief. “I’m glad you think it’s as simple as that, because I do too. Except”—she nodded sagely—“that until I’m qualified I should refuse even a man I could love!”
“Refuse him—or make him wait?” teased Kathryn.
“It mightn’t be fair to make him wait,” worried Sara seriously.
“Well, we can afford to leave that to him especially if, as you claim, he’s only a mythical figure!” Kathryn laughed. “Meanwhile, how are you looking forward to going on to the wards? You may find it rather different from Prelim. Training School at first, you know.”
Sara drew a deep breath. “I’m proud, dying to get out of an overall and into a real uniform, and completely scared that I may forget every single thing I’ve learnt!”
“You won’t. What do you know anyway?”
“Well, respirations and pulses and temperatures the different oxygen apparatuses, bed-making, taking tests—” Sara ticked off her abilities on her fingers.
“Gracious, you’ve got practically nothing to learn!” mocked Kathryn gaily. “I remember, on my first day, I was sent to another ward to borrow a sphygnomanometer. I forgot the name on the way, was scared to go back and couldn’t have recognised the thing if I’d seen it.”
“What did you do?” queried Sara, open-mouthed.
“I managed something near the first syllable. Fortunately the Sister of the other ward realised that I wanted and gave it to me. T could have fallen on her neck with gratitude! Meanwhile, you are going to Men’s Medical, to Sister Bridgeworth, aren’t you?”
“Yes. What’s she like?”
“A grand Sister. About the most capable on the staff I should say. You’re lucky.” Kathryn looked at her watch. “Incidentally. I’ve promised to have coffee with her to-night. What time must you be back yourself?”
“Not till ten, Home Sister said. But Mrs. Thorley has allowed Carol to wait up, so that I could put her to bed as it’s rather a special night for me. Will you come too?”
“Not as I have this appointment with Sister Bridgeworth. Ask Barbara to excuse me, and give Carol a kiss for me, won’t you? Meanwhile, I’ve got an ordeal before me to-morrow too. The new specialist to the children’s ward, Dr. Brand, is to attend hospital for the first time.”
“Do you know him?”
“No, only by reputation, and that only through Matron’s eulogies of him.” Kathryn suppressed a little shiver. “I could almost wish he didn’t sound quite so brilliant,” she added ruefully.
“Why do you?”
“I don’t really, if only for the children’s sake. But a bit of human error might make him the easier to work with and for.”
“I don’t know. If he were stupid, he might be pigheaded as well,” opined Sara.
Kathryn laughed. “ ‘Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings’! Come on, Sara, let’s go, if you’re not to keep Carol up too long.”
“It’s been lovely. Thanks so much,” breathed Sara. “The night I qualify you’ll have dinner with me!”
“Nonsense. You’ll probably be dining with that nonexistent young man!” prophesied Kathryn.
From the West End they had a fairly long journey by Tube out to the Wardrop Hospital, the modern buildings of which stood on the heights above the Surrey town that was itself linked to the suburbs. Recently a new station had been opened near the hospital, but to-night Kathryn alighted with Sara at the station before deciding to walk the rest of the way through the twilight.
As she walked, her thoughts were of Barbara Thorley—of Barbara and of her husband, Victor, who taught Latin and English literature at the big grammar school near the hospital, which overlooked its playing-fields. For she felt that it was Barbara and Victor who had really held the key to Sara’s little drama, seemingly now at its happy beginning, if not yet in sight of its ending. Because without her two good friends there might have been no solution to the problem of little Carol’s care, without which Sara would stubbornly have refused to take up the nursing training on which her heart was set. And if Sara had continued in that dreadful job! Deliberately Kathryn shrugged away from the thought, finding the implications of it too tragic to contemplate.
After that surprise meeting with her childhood neighbour, she had racked her brains to find a way out to which the girl would agree. And she smiled as she recalled how the solution had presented itself. In the middle of the night she had started from a deep sleep, had said aloud: “Barbara, of course—Barbara and Victor. If only they would!” and had promptly fallen peacefully asleep again, as if the whole thing were already settled.
To all intents it was ... She had not even had to ask Barbara. For it had been Barbara, listening to the story, who had interposed gently: “Couldn’t little Carol come to us?” And Kathryn, accepting gratefully on Sara’s behalf, had sensed that for Barbara and Victor, desolate of heart since the loss of their own baby boy, Carol’s coming would be a heaven-sent solution too.
Peter would have been nearly three by now, Kathryn reflected. But he had been a ‘blue’ baby—one of those whose defective circulation at birth could still defy science—and it had been her own ward’s hopeless fight for his life which had originally drawn a thread of friendship between herself and Barbara and Victor.
She had been only staff nurse then, but Barbara had known how deeply she had felt Peter’s loss, had survived her own sorrow without bitterness, and had since drawn Kathryn within the charmed circle of a home which the girl knew she could look on almost as her own.
And now little Carol Spender shared it. How lucky she was! The thought in Kathryn’s mind checked suddenly upon her sharp-drawn breath and gasp of dismay. For ahead of her, a child, playing with a group of older boys, had thrown his ball out into the road, had darted to regain it, and was now dancing backwards and forwards, shouting a defiant bravado to the driver of a heavy lorry that was bearing down upon him.
The driver swore and bent over his wheel, wrenching it about in his effort to avoid the cavorting figure in his path. Too late the child realised his danger, dashed blindly forward—the wrong way. Again the driver swerved, this time dangerously to his own vehicle, but the front wheel caught the child slantingly and flung him towards the gutter, where he lay still.
Kathryn ran forward, but others ran too. By the time she reached the child’s side the inevitable sympathetic but self-important crowd had gathered, pushing and craning and telling each other what had happened and how they had known it would...
Breathless and urgent, Kathryn pleaded: “Please don’t move him—yet,” and managed to push her way through to kneel in the gutter at his side. For too often on the ward she had seen the needless complications to simple injuries caused by just such over-eager solicitude as this. Deftly she sought to support the boy’s head, and was looking up, prepared to ask someone to call a doctor, when the crowd parted again to make way for a tall man who had alighted from a car.
In the half-light his features were ill-defined, but his deep voice held more than a hint of command as he looked down at Kathryn to ask sharply: “Are you a doctor? If not, you shouldn’t attempt to move that child.”
Kathryn tried not to resent the unnecessarily peremptory tone. “I’m not a doctor. I—”
“Well, I am. So I’ll examine him, if you don't mind.” He was kneeling beside her now,
He sat back on his heels and looked Kathryn up and down appraisingly. Then: “If you really want to make yourself useful, get to the nearest telephone and call an ambulance.”
Kathryn volunteered: “The Wardrop Hospital is not far away.”
“I know that. Get an ambulance from there.” Kathryn stumbled to her feet, noting a laddered nylon as she did so and hoping that the petty anger she felt was caused by that, and not by antagonism for this man who clearly knew so well what he was about.
He went on briskly: “Ask for the Casualty extension, and for goodness’ sake don’t haver over the directions you give them. Be clear, and make it urgent.” As Kathryn moved away a voice said: “There’s a telephone at the tobacconist’s a few doors down. Shall I show you, miss?”—and she found that the lorry-driver was at her side.
“Yes, do. But you’d better not come with me. The police—” She stopped, pitying the nervous twisting of his cap between his hands, the troubled anxiety of his eyes. He began urgently: “I couldn’t help it, miss. There’s people could witness for me—”
She laid a hand upon his arm. “I know. I could myself.”
“How bad do you think he is?”
“I don’t know. But the doctor will tell you before they take him away.”
She knew that he wanted to linger, justifying himself, but she had to say: “Look, I mustn’t delay calling the ambulance. But they will almost certainly take him to the Wardrop Hospital, and if he is detained he will be taken through Casualty to the children’s ward. I’m its Sister. So if you come to the hospital to-morrow and ask for me, Sister Clare, I’ll have news for you. Will you do that?”
He nodded gratefully, slowly taking in her words. “A Sister, you say? A nursing Sister? But that fellow”—his thumb jerked over his shoulder—“that chap who said he was a doctor—he ticked you off!”