Cherry Ames 02 Senior Nurse (4 page)

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talk arose. Cherry waited. Five minutes later they returned.

“They want to!” Bertha announced. “The seniors are dying to adopt the probies!”

Mai Lee rapped gently on the table for order. “I propose that Cherry apply to the Superintendent of Nurses for permission.”

Cherry groaned. The others all assured her hastily that they would be standing outside Miss Reamer’s office, lending moral support, if she felt too weak.

“All right,” said Cherry, scrambling to her feet. “But don’t say I didn’t warn you!” She turned the corner out of the nurses’ dining room, went through Spencer’s vast rotunda, and turned another corner to the Superintendent’s office. She raised her hand to knock on Miss Reamer’s door and paused. She felt worried, astonished, topsy-turvy, and hilarious.

“I still don’t know what being a senior is,” she thought,

“but I never expected it to include rabbits and a pint-size gypsy and that extraordinary young doctor and—

and now, adopting people!”

c h a p t e r i i i

Two Strange People

a week later an announcement appeared on the nurses’ bulletin board. The Superintendent of Nurses herewith granted permission to the seniors to “adopt” the entering class of probationers. Miss Reamer invited all seniors and probationers to a tea in Spencer lounge that afternoon between three and four.

“The old darling, giving us a tea party,” Cherry said to Ann. They tucked in their small patients in the Children’s Ward and rushed back to Crowley to change.

Cherry arrived at Miss Reamer’s tea, breathless and flushed, in a saucily starched uniform. The big lounge in Spencer was overflowing with seniors, trying to look kind and reassuring, and beside them were young probationers in their gray dresses, painfully shy.

Cherry made her way through the stiff little groups


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with their tea cups, stealing glances at Gwen and Ann and Vivian and Marie Swift, each with her probie in tow. It was hard to tell anything from their polite faces.

Only Ann seemed really at ease and warmly friendly.

Well, most things were difficult at the beginning, Cherry thought.

She went up to the long flower-strewn tea table, where at one end Miss Reamer sat behind a decorative samovar, dispensing tea and cakes. At the other end of the table, the flinty-faced Assistant Superintendent of Nurses, Miss Kent, poured, looking as if she would be a good deal happier in an Operating Room.

“Good afternoon, Miss Reamer,” Cherry said, with genuine pleasure at seeing the older woman. “Have you a probationer for me?” In order to be perfectly impartial, Miss Reamer had acted as agent between the two classes, picking names of seniors and probies out of a hat. Cherry was anxious to know whom she herself had drawn.

“Hello, Miss Ames. Yes, your probationer’s name is Mildred Burnham. She isn’t here yet.” Cherry accepted the cup which Miss Reamer held out to her. “I don’t understand why not. All the probationers were dismissed in plenty of time for the tea.” Cherry felt a quick misgiving. Cherry was, conspicuously, the only unattached senior in the room. She


waited around, pretending to serve cake, and finally went to sit down with Vivian and Gwen. Two girls in gray were with them. They were so frozen with respect for seniors that they could not say much beyond “Yes” and “No” and “Thank you.” But they were clearly eager for the sympathetic help which Vivian and Gwen offered.

“They’re sweet,” Cherry thought as Gwen introduced the probationers. “I hope mine measures up to these two.”

“We were just talking about Marius Lexington Upham,” Gwen informed her.

“What?” said Cherry incredulously. “What’s that, a race horse or a battleship?” The smaller of the two probies giggled.

Vivian said, “Believe it or not, that’s the poor chap’s name.” Cherry only half listened, watching the door in some embarrassment.

“Poor chap, indeed!” Gwen sputtered. She shook her red head admiringly. “He’s got this hospital on its ear!

The worst of it is, nobody can handle him! Even the senior staff men admit he’s absolutely brilliant—and absolutely headstrong! He’s untameable!”

“Gwen dear, you’ll frighten the probies,” Cherry said idly. “No one can be——”

“Oh, can’t he?” Vivian cut in. “Did you ever meet a cyclone? Of all the extraordinary——”

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Just then Miss Reamer called Cherry over. Her attention swerved to the unknown probationer who was to be her personal charge for the coming year. She rose and excused herself.

Standing beside the Superintendent of Nurses at the table was a girl of about eighteen with a dumpy figure and an ordinary face. She would have made no impression whatsoever on Cherry, except for the unpleasant way she seemed to draw herself away from everyone around her.

Cherry took an instant dislike to her.

Then she realized it and was appalled. “I’ve no right to a prejudice! I don’t even know the girl,” Cherry scolded herself as Miss Reamer introduced them.

“How do you do,” said Mildred Burnham. Her face was heavy with indifference and hostility. The girl was like a dead weight.

“I’ll have to win her over,” Cherry thought, feeling weary right at the start. What was bothering this girl?

Cherry swallowed her dislike and made an effort.

“Wouldn’t you like to sit down? I can’t guarantee finding an empty sofa, but I do see a couple of chairs.”

“It makes no difference to me,” Mildred Burnham said flatly.

“Well, it makes a difference to me,” Cherry said and managed a laugh. “I’ve been on my feet since seven this morning, and you know they say a nurse never stands when she can sit, and never sits when she can lie down.”


“Do they say that?” Mildred Burnham said. She followed Cherry to the vacant chairs and they sat down.

Cherry groped for something that this leaden girl might respond to. “What sort of class are you in?” she asked.

“They’re nothing wonderful,” Mildred Burnham said.

Cherry gulped and tried again to see something about her probie that she could like.

“You’re a poised probationer. It’s exceptional. But honestly, aren’t you excited inside about starting training?” The girl looked at her out of stony eyes. “Excited? No.

I mean to be a nurse, but I don’t see why I should get wild-eyed about it.”

Cherry hung on tight to her temper and stared in bewilderment at her adoptee. Mildred Burnham suddenly sat up straight in her chair.

“You needn’t think you can patronize me,” she cried,

“just because you’re two years ahead of me!” So that was it. How childish! How absurd! Cherry said quickly:

“Honestly I don’t feel the least bit patronizing. I certainly would have no reason to. I want you to accept whatever help I can give, in the way I mean it.” But Mildred Burnham’s sullen expression did not waver. She preserved a hateful silence. Cherry’s patience began to give out.


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“Perhaps you’d rather some other senior adopted you?”

“It makes no difference.”

“Or would you rather not be adopted at all?”

“Oh, no. I expect that this adoption business will be useful to me. Do you mind if I go now?” Cherry’s patience reached its end. “You’re very rude,” she said sharply. “If you’re going to be a nurse, you’ll have to learn to be civil. You might as well start with me.”

“Thanks so much for the advice,” said Mildred Burnham sarcastically.

Cherry wondered what her blood pressure was at that point. She got to her feet and walked away.

In a moment she felt a little ashamed of herself. She was the older, she at least should keep her temper in hand. She should, for instance, get another cup of tea and return to that insolent girl, instead of letting their first encounter end on a sour note. Get off to a bad start and the year ahead could be unbearable.

But Cherry’s feet were taking her to the door and out of the lounge. She could not help it—she really did dislike that girl. In a ruffled temper, she headed for the basement.

Down in the basement, in its dim lights and brick walls, with its blocks-long labyrinth of winding corridors which criss-crossed unexpectedly, Cherry automatically


started down the underground short-cut to Crowley.

Still under Spencer, she passed the sputum room where tubercular waste articles were carefully burned. She passed busy utility rooms, and the big kitchens. But soon the tunnel she traveled grew deserted. She kept glancing up at the pipes overhead, following the green one. Green pipes carried water, red carried steam, yellow carried gas, and there were two more pipes she could not identify. She passed the last room, the boiler room, and now the tunnel grew narrow. She must be somewhere under the yard. Her footsteps rang out in the stillness.

Suddenly about thirty yards ahead of her a man darted out of the wall. Cherry jumped, then realized he had come from some corridor which she did not know existed. He whirled around wildly, looking hastily in all directions, then came running toward her. Cherry could not make out his face at this distance. He wore no white coat but a dark business suit, and he was powerfully built. The thought crossed her mind that he might be an escaped patient from Psychiatric. Or he might be an hysterical patient trying to run away. She ordered herself not to be frightened: a nurse knew many ways to handle hysterical people. Nevertheless Cherry glanced behind her: the tunnel back to Spencer stretched a silent endless way. The man was running nearer and nearer.

He was shouting something at her now and waving his

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arms. Panic-stricken, Cherry broke into a run, back toward Spencer.

But she could not run fast enough. The man was gaining on her. She could hear his approaching footsteps, heavier than her own, above the crackle of her apron and her own panting. The man cried out again. Suddenly his footsteps rang out faster and harder, and a hand closed on her arm.

Cherry, dripping with perspiration, swayed against the wall. All she could think was how cold the brick felt against her overheated body. Then her blurred vision cleared and she looked up.

“You idiot,” the man was saying. Cherry looked again and blinked. It was the young doctor who had scattered her towels all over the ward and chased Lucy’s rabbit! “I merely asked you which way! I was lost.”

“Sorry.” Cherry’s panting was dying down and she relaxed. Then she giggled. “You look wild enough to scare anyone.” His sandy-colored hair stood on end, and his emphatic black brows were drawn together.

“Don’t tell me—” he started belligerently.

“I’ll tell you if I want to!” Cherry shot back. “I don’t know what it is about you, but you make me see red!” He leaned against the wall and grinned happily at her.

“It seems that’s the way to make you notice me. I’ll remember to infuriate you, if necessary.” He took out


his handkerchief and fanned her with it. “Still scared?

Still mad?”

“Well, to be honest, no.” They smiled slowly at each other.

“I’ve been looking high and low for you all week,” he announced. “I almost decided you had been a beautiful mirage and didn’t actually exist.” His keen eyes searched her face. He asked her abruptly, “You aren’t afraid of me, are you?”

“Afraid! I’m not even impressed. Why would I be afraid of you?” She drew up her slim figure.

“Never mind. I knew you wouldn’t be afraid. I was right about you—right the first minute I saw you.”

“This is very interesting,” Cherry said out of her astonishment, “but I’ve got to get along to——” He waved that aside with a toss of his head. “I want you to promise me something. No, you be quiet a minute—though I must say I like a girl who’s got a mind of her own.” A smile lightened his serious face, and flickered out. “You’re going to hear a lot of stories about me.

It’s true I’m a strange bird. But I’m not strange the way gossip has it. Don’t believe them.” Cherry looked at him with puzzled eyes. “What—

what’s your name?”

“Lex. Marius Lexington Upham.” Of course! Gwen had been talking about the exceptional new interne—untameable—brilliant cyclone—


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Cherry wished she could remember what she had said.

She shook her black curls and sighed. “I’ve adopted one strange bird today already. That’s enough.”

“Adopt me, too.” He was not teasing or joking. His forceful face was dead serious. “It’s difficult being a person who doesn’t quite fit in. It’s lonely.”

“I see,” Cherry said softly. She thought, “You don’t fit in because you’re so far above average. I’m sure you
lonely.” She smiled at him a little. “But why me?” she asked.

“Why not?”

“I haven’t much time,” she started hesitantly.

“What’s time for, if you don’t use it to do the things you want?” He shrugged his big shoulders. “If you won’t break the rules and have tea with me, will you come and talk with me in the library? We could discuss the cardio-vascular system, you know. Why I could talk with you about the alphabet and find it fascinating.”

“But I don’t have time even for that. For instance, I promised to help Dr. Fortune occasionally in his laboratory and——”

“Dr. Joseph Fortune? So that’s where you spend your free time? In that case,” the young man said thoughtfully, “I ought to get myself made his assistant.” He looked quite capable of doing it. “Well? Well?” he demanded, his black brows drawing together. “Will you adopt me?”



Cherry burst out laughing. He
something like a cyclone. “All right, Lex, consider yourself adopted.” He jammed his hands in his pockets and leaned against the wall and looked extremely pleased.

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