Cherry Ames 02 Senior Nurse (3 page)

“Could I interest you in having tea with me?” he said.

Cherry suppressed a smile. “You certainly are in a hurry to get acquainted, Doctor.”
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He glanced at her out of one bright intelligent eye.

“You look very nice and I should like to know you and why not come straight to the point?” She tried to look demure. “The rules, you know, say doctors and nurses attached to the same hospital may meet only professionally.”

“Page seven of the handbook,” he agreed, undaunted.

“But most rules were made to be broken. I’ve found a restaurant near here where they have all the fancy cakes girls like—–”

“—and you’ve taken at least a dozen nurses to tea there already,” Cherry interrupted mischievously.

He turned around and looked her emphatically full in the eyes. “No, I have not,” he said, “and will not.” For the first time, she saw what a serious person he was, under his boldness and bantering. She saw, too, a flicker of sensitivity as he added, “I don’t mean to press you into an acquaintance with an utter stranger.”

“There, there,” Cherry said, laughing. “If we’re going to work together in the same hospital, we won’t be strangers for long.” She gave the dressing cart a little push. “Didn’t you say Dr. Hill was in a hurry?” she teased.

“I was right,” he said cheerfully. “You
are
nice. Don’t bother wheeling in the cart. Dr. Hill doesn’t really need it.”

Cherry laughed at him. To cover his embarrassment, he idly uncovered and re-covered a few things on the cart.

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Suddenly, out of nowhere—but actually, out of the largest covered basin—flew a white streak. It leaped in the air and scuttled madly around the supply closet.

The young doctor dashed after it, but it eluded his out-stretched hand.

“What’s that thing?” he demanded as he sprinted around the closet, chasing the white streak.

“It’s a—a rabbit,” Cherry said faintly.

“A what? I thought you said that cart was in apple-pie order!”

Cherry abruptly sank down on a stool and whooped with laughter.

“Look!” she gasped, holding her aching sides. “There it goes!” She pointed, helpless with mirth, to the open door. Like a white shadow, the rabbit was flying down the corridor, headed for the ward. The young doctor raced after it, his white coat flapping.

By the time Cherry could stop laughing a little and return to the ward she found it in an uproar. The frightened rabbit raced up and down under the rows of beds.

Dr. Hill swooped at it from one end of the room, trying to seize it as it flashed by. The head nurse and the graduate nurse were running along with it as best they could. Ann and Lucy were down on their hands and knees. The young doctor ran beside the rabbit, or now behind it, wildly flapping a towel. The delighted children were shrieking at the tops of their voices.

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Finally the rabbit made a sharp right turn, leaped clear across Carlotta’s crib, and fled down the hall out of sight.

Gradually the laughter petered out to a few suppressed chokings and giggles, and then to a tentative silence.

Out of Cherry’s guilty enjoyment, the grayhaired head nurse spoke.

“Where did that rabbit come from?” Mrs. Crofts glanced knowingly at Lucy the maid, and so did Cherry. The little old woman looked terrified.

Cherry took her senior life in her hands and said courageously:

“I found it in the dressing cart,” No one said anything.

Cherry added helpfully, “Stuffed in a pot.” Everyone suddenly howled again, including the head nurse. Ann was bent double. Even Lucy managed a woebegone smile. Cherry raised her voice to be heard over the laughter. “It was my fault, Mrs. Crofts. I saw it first. If I’d shut the door, it would not have got away.”

“Never mind,” Dr. Hill said as he turned to leave.

“That rabbit has broken hospital routine, but it’s done the children a lot of good.”

“Someone,” said the head nurse, still breathless, “had better let the poor little creature out of the building.”

“I’ll do it,” the young doctor offered and, after a quick smile at Cherry, he was gone.

Cherry realized then that she did not even know his name. And since he was only a visitor today, he would
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not be returning to the ward. Well, it was time for her and Ann to go off the ward themselves. She saw Lucy’s grateful smile and nodded. Then she and Ann reported off duty to the head nurse. Cherry thanked her for being lenient about the rabbit.

Mrs. Crofts smiled, but she said, “A senior really must be a little more sober and responsible.” When she got out into the elevator with Ann, Cherry said, “Oh, shucks, who wants to be a senior anyway?”
c h a p t e r i i

Dreams and Plans

becoming a senior took up the rest of cherry’s afternoon. She moved the balance of her belongings from her old room, in the residence hall for first-year and junior student nurses, to the grandeur of Crowley.

Her little room looked very attractive when she had put everything neatly away. Cherry set photographs of her parents and of her twin brother Charlie, and a snapshot of young Midge Fortune, on the table beside the chintz-covered daybed. She wanted to write to them all and tell them she was safely a senior—maybe she could squeeze that in this evening, after studying.

Cherry looked at their pictures rather wistfully. She missed them. She missed her own neighborly tree-shaded little town of Hilton, and the rich corn and wheat countryside where she had grown up. She especially
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missed Charlie, who had given her the nurse’s watch which she so proudly wore on her wrist. She wondered about Charlie; his letter this morning announced matter-of-factly that he might not be returning to the State University this September. Instead, he was hoping to be accepted in the Army Air Force. He wanted, he wrote, to train either as a pilot or for the more urgent job of aerial gunner.

“You always did have your heart set on being a flier,” Cherry said to the young man in the picture. Her twin brother was a very masculine and startlingly blond version of Cherry herself. “And you always were determined to live up to your plans. Well, heaven knows, we need fliers to win this war—and nurses too.” She turned to the photographs of her parents: her father a businesslike, good-humored looking man; her mother, sweet-faced and still young. Then she studied the new snapshot of Midge, Dr. Fortune’s motherless daughter. Midge was fifteen now, growing tall and graceful. “But you’re still the same wild Indian,” Cherry grinned. It comforted her, somehow, to see their familiar faces and have this imaginary visit with them, in the midst of the excitement and strain of taking on senior status.

She put their pictures back in place now. She brushed her black curls until they shone, tried to tone down her crimson cheeks with powder, and slipped on a crisp
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fresh apron for supper. Fresh and glowing as a red rose, she started to walk across the yard to Spencer Hall.

Cherry loved the yard at this twilight hour. That brief surge of homesickness disappeared, for the hospital was her real home. White-clad nurses and internes called greetings to her as they hurried down the paths from one building to another. In the many windows, lights would soon be going on. Something between happiness and sorrow welled up in Cherry. It was something very sweet, almost too poignant to bear. She loved this hospital so! She loved its quiet white wards full of patients, its tiny kitchens, the busy utility rooms, the cool gray laboratory, the hushed white corridors smelling of soapsuds, the ambulances clanging up before Emergency Ward, this green wandering yard dotted with buildings which housed special branches of medicine.

Most of all, Cherry loved nursing itself. Her dream was the dream of being a nurse, of helping people on a grand scale in the most important way there is. She had come to believe in it through Dr. Joe’s practical ideal-ism, and she always would believe in it.

At the entrance to Spencer Hall, the great stately central building of Spencer Hospital, someone seized her arm.

“I hear you’re having Welsh rabbit for supper!” Gwen Jones stood there laughing—a sturdy girl with bright red hair, a few freckles, and a merry Puck’s face.

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“So Ann told you all!” Cherry laughed back.

“As a doctor’s daughter, let me say that your behavior was most undignified, Miss Ames.” Gwen tried to glare but she was not very successful. She shoved back her short red hair and added candidly, “May I also say that from my years of assisting the medico of a coal mining town, to wit, my Dad, I’ll be human first and dignified second.”

“Bravo!” Cherry said. “Do we stand around making speeches or do we get some nourishment?” They went into the nurses’ dining room.

It was a large attractive room, decorated in peach and green, cafeteria arrangement. There were tables for four and for eight, and one long table lined with brand-new and painfully self-conscious probationers. The room was crowded with young women in probationer’s gray, bibless and capless; in student blue and white set off with rustling white aprons, crisp white caps, and demure black shoes and stockings; and in the head-to-toe white of the graduate nurse. The whole room pulsed with talk and laughter and the vitality of these purposeful young women.

Cherry and Gwen got their trays appetizingly laden, then went in search of Ann. They found her at a round table with big Bertha Larsen, little ivory-faced Mai Lee, Josie Franklin, Marie Swift, and the girl who had once been Cherry’s enemy, Vivian Warren. As Cherry sat
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down, she felt grateful that these girls whom she had known since her probie days were not among those classmates dropped at the beginning of senior year.

“Look, kids,” Vivian Warren laughed. “As mighty seniors, they could dine in glory with graduates! But they’re sitting with us. You must love us.”

“We do,” Cherry said briskly. “Did you get your Spencer scholarship again this year, Vivi?” It was no secret that Vivian’s family could not afford to send her through nursing school, and Vivian Warren was admired for her spunk and good work which took her through on her own.

Vivian’s face, which had once been so hard and suspicious, lighted. “Not only did
I
get it! But do you girls know that most of these new students are going to be nurses by courtesy of the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps?

I wish I were on that kind of scholarship. I’ll bet you don’t know what all the Cadet Nurses get! They get all their training, and their rooms and meals, and a stunning gray street uniform, all free—not to mention monthly pocket money besides! All you have to do to get it is to apply and qualify! Pretty wonderful for these girls, I’d say!”

“Pretty wonderful for the taxpayers who provide the scholarships and who’ll eventually get a sufficient number of A-l nurses in return,” Marie Swift said matter-of-factly. Marie was a wealthy girl who found nursing
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the most thrilling thing she had ever tried. “It’s a big job to keep a country healthy. Not to mention keeping the armed services whole and well. And after the war, nurses will be needed more than ever. Nursing isn’t just a temporary wartime job. A nurse has a future.” Bertha Larsen leaned forward, her round face troubled. “Ah, those poor little probies! They’re so lost here, just like we were. It breaks my heart! I wish I could help them or something.”

Josie Franklin gave a slight shriek. The others turned in alarm. Josie peered at them timidly from behind her glasses. “Cherry! Don’t you remember what you said?

At the end of our first year? We were in the dining room—I think we had shrimp salad that night—it was just before we walked over to the lake where the seniors throw their black stockings when they——” Cherry exchanged a grin with quiet demure Mai Lee.

“One thing at a time, please. What did I say about shrimp salad and black stockings that has anything to do with the sufferings of probationers?”

“Well, it wasn’t about shrimp salad exactly, but you said we ought to—well, when we became seniors—sort of each one of us adopt a probationer. We’re seniors now.

I mean one apiece, that is.” Josie’s thin face was very earnest.

Suddenly the girls all were talking at once. “That’s right, Cherry did think that up!” “We’d suffered so
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ourselves that—” “And it’s not such a bad idea either!” They all turned on Cherry point-blank and demanded,

“Shall we adopt them, Cherry?” Cherry’s stomach rapidly sank. She tried to retire behind a large piece of bread and butter. But her classmates were demanding an answer. She said weakly,

“Suppose they don’t want to be adopted in the first place? Suppose my probationer thinks I’m the worst nurse in the senior class? Those government Cadet Nurse Corps scholarships are for girls seventeen to thirty-five—how’d you like to adopt someone thirty-five? Suppose——”

“Never mind supposing!” Ann interrupted. “You thought this up in the beginning, Cherry Ames. Speak up!”

“And make it good!” Gwen warned.

Cherry stared at her plate, thinking, then said slowly,

“You know, in a year we’re going to be graduated and most of us will leave Spencer for good. I guess our class would like to leave something behind us—some gift to the school or some tradition. Most all the other classes do. And this year is the last chance for us.” She studied their listening faces, one by one. “So if you want to, and if the rest of our class wants to——”

“They’ll want to!” Bertha Larsen cried. “I’ll ask them right now!”

She and Ann and Vivian and Marie promptly got up and circulated around the dining room. A loud buzz of
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