Cherry Ames 02 Senior Nurse (5 page)

“And now,” he said, “I’ll walk you to wherever you’re going, so you won’t get scared again, you sissy.” He gripped her arm firmly and plunged ahead at a rapid pace.

“Wait!” Cherry gasped. “I don’t like being dragged along!”

“Keep up with me then,” he said. But he slowed his pace down to a more gentle one.

They walked along in comfortable silence. A few yards more, and they had reached the wide basement of Crowley. They paused. Lex asked Cherry when he was going to see her again. She looked at him ruefully.

“Heaven only knows. Every minute of my time is cram-jam full. And you must be working plenty hard yourself.”

She was sorry, for she liked this amazing young doctor. She told him so with a warm and tantalizing smile. From the way he looked back at her, he very much approved of her scarlet cheeks and black diamond eyes.

“Never mind. I’ll find you,” he assured her. “You’ll discover you’ve adopted me in earnest.” Cherry realized with a start that he was serious about being adopted. Adopting Marius Lexington Upham
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might be like adopting a bomb! She turned and fled upstairs.

In her own quiet little room, Cherry went to the mirror which hung over the chest of drawers. She studied the face that looked back at her.

“It certainly is a comfort,” she thought, her head spinning, “after those two crazy people I’ve adopted, to see someone
normal
again!”
c h a p t e r i v

Very Small Fry

cherry’s worries about lex and mildred burnham came to a quick and unexpected solution. She simply did not have time to see them. And she lost interest in anyone aged more than two weeks.

There had been a couple of chance breathless meet-ings with Lex in the yard. Cherry wanted to see Lex; she was curious to know whether his sudden interest in her was a mere temporary impulse. As for Mildred, Cherry promised herself, “I’ll
make
time—I’ll squeeze her in somehow.” But so far she had not succeeded. September already had slipped out of her grasp, tart golden October had arrived, and here was Cherry transferred from Pediatrics upstairs to Obstetrics.

If only Obstetrics had been the usual ward’s wild scramble, Cherry would have been too rushed to think
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of Lex or her probie at all. But Obstetrics was mostly waiting, generally peaceful to the point of being tedious.

Cherry grew a little restless. She was going to be on Obstetrics for the student nurse’s usual three months’

period. The first two weeks, when she had ward duty taking care of the new mothers, was the slowest and least exciting part.

Cherry kept the mothers warm and quiet and comfortable, and coaxed them to eat the things they should. She shooed away proud fathers, excited grand-parents and talkative friends who came too often and stayed too long, exhausting the patients. Cherry rather enjoyed the intimate atmosphere of this ward: it had only ten beds, and the mothers—and the nurses too—

formed a sort of sorority in their special interest in babies. There was a bright break in the slow routine when the infants were brought down from the nursery to the ward for feedings, six times a day.

They were packed in a wheeled truck, all ten of them lying in a row. Long before the truck arrived, when the babies’ combined squallings, gruntings, bubblings and puffings were just a faint sound down the corridor, a thrill went through the ward. The patients, who had been until now matter-of-fact women, reading or chatting or dozing, suddenly sat up and appeared radiant.

The nurses, too, looked eager and amused. Cherry forgot everything else and thoroughly enjoyed herself.

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When the two nursery nurses wheeled in the truck, with its tiny lively occupants, the ward came thoroughly to life. Only the babies themselves, the reason for this excitement and happiness, remained nonchalant.

“They get cuter and funnier each time,” Cherry said to Miss O’Malley, her fellow nurse, as they each dug squirming tiny babies out of their compartments.

“This one is a little damp,” Miss O’Malley said hastily.

Cherry laughed. She did not mind. She had taken to this branch of nursing as easily and blithely and efficiently as if she were a veteran, instead of a student nurse.

Cherry slipped her hand under Baby Norris’s warm downy head, rested his spine along her arm, and lifted him up firmly and horizontally, between her hip and arm. He made a compact bundle. He blinked gravely at her, opened his tiny pink mouth in a yawn, then stared up at her again. Each day Cherry made fresh discoveries about these miniature human beings. “Baby Norris is decidedly dignified,” she observed.

“Even his mother is awed by him,” Miss O’Malley answered. She efficiently scooped up a baby and, with a wriggling blanket on her arm, started toward its mother.

Cherry found one small baby quite an armful, particularly with Baby Norris waving his miniature pink plump fist in her face. Around his wrist, sealed
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on, was a bead bracelet which spelled out his last name. Even so, as Cherry approached the bed, she glanced at the name on the bed and said aloud, “Baby Norris.”

“Are you sure it’s my baby?” said the nervous little woman in the bed. “Are you sure you aren’t making a mistake?”

“Absolutely sure,” Cherry soothed her. “See how fine he looks today.” She laid the baby in the curve of his mother’s arm, thinking that sometimes a nurse has to be chiefly a psychologist.

“Why does he kick so?” Mrs. Norris asked, touching him gingerly. “Oh, dear, I’ll never be able to take care of him at home. I don’t know the first thing about babies!” she wailed.

“You’ll learn,” said Mrs. Sorley from the next bed. She was a big, good-natured, middle-aged woman. “By the time you have your fifth, like me, a baby’s no trouble at all.” She patted her chunky infant comfortably on the seat of his diaper.

Cherry suppressed her smile at Mrs. Norris’s terrified expression and went back to the cart. She took Baby Saunders on her arm and held her a moment. “Hello, my lovely,” Cherry murmured. The baby girl’s gray eyes were like a china doll’s, fringed with black lashes, a golden halo covered her little head, her skin was pink and delicate as a flower. She rested,
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quiet and good, on Cherry’s arm, breathing lightly. “I wish she were mine,” Cherry thought as she trotted over to the mother’s bed.

Mrs. Saunders reached out her arms. She was only eighteen. Her young husband was fighting somewhere in Europe. Cherry knew that Mrs. Saunders had not heard from him or about him for three months. Yet she had never heard the young mother say anything about her own worry, except what she said now:

“Dick’s going to be pretty proud when he sees his daughter.”

“I should think so!” Cherry said a hasty little prayer that he might come home safely, that he might some day really see his beautiful little daughter.

The cart was empty now except for Baby Lane.

Cherry scooped him up and could not help laughing.

He was wrinkled, red, and wiry, more like an animated dried prune, Cherry thought, than a human being. Baby Lane tossed his arms and legs, looked her square in the eye, and grunted for nourishment.

“He’s so homely,” Mrs. Lane mourned half-humorously as Cherry handed him over and helped her to a more comfortable position in the bed. “My husband is disappointed in such an ugly duckling.”

“He’s a fine husky boy, and just what most brand-new babies look like,” Cherry retorted. “Just wait until his
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skin grows a little less sensitive and less red, and he gains some fat to go over those muscles.”

“I hope he grows better-looking,” Mrs. Lane sighed.

But from the way she stroked the fuzzy crimson little head, Cherry saw that her remarks had comforted and satisfied her patient.

Cherry and Miss O’Malley patrolled the quiet ward, to see that the mothers did not nurse the babies too fast and to watch for any emergency. Cherry taught one amazed baby to bubble. Then she carried the babies, carefully horizontal, back to the truck. Most of them, now that they were full, were drowsing, tiny hands uncurled, limp and soft and warm. They were packed back into their beds, the truck was wheeled out and the ward settled down to matter-of-fact knitting again until the babies’ next visit.

Cherry was still chuckling over the distinct personalities of these tiny people when she went off duty. But the moment she was out of the ward and hurrying across the yard with her nurse’s cape billowing out behind her, time pressed at her heels again. Senior lecture classes were heavy, she had an enormous amount of reading to do, and besides she had promised Dr. Joe to help him.

She half-ran through the blowing October afternoon toward Lincoln Hall where his laboratory was. Lincoln housed laboratories, a special library, and valuable medical records. Cherry, like all student nurses, and
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even most young staff doctors and graduate nurses, would have had no business in Lincoln, except that she was helping her old friend and mentor, Dr. Joseph Fortune.

Dr. Fortune had brought the Ames twins into the world, and had been their friend and neighbor all their lives. His selfless devotion to medical research in his little home laboratory in Hilton—in the teeth of poverty and loneliness and lack of recognition, in those days—

had inspired Cherry to be a nurse. Cherry had tried to pay him back in her own way. After Mrs. Fortune had died, while Cherry was still in high school, Cherry had kept an eye on impractical Dr. Joe and on his house and on his madcap daughter, Midge. Dr. Joe’s present recognition, and his presence here at Spencer, was due to Cherry—and a nightmarish episode in her first year at the nursing school.

Cherry blew into Dr. Joe’s small cluttered laboratory, red-cheeked and out of breath. “Why aren’t there more hours in the day, Dr. Joe?” she asked in greeting.

Dr. Joe lifted his head from the microscope a full minute after her remark. He brushed the boyish shock of gray hair out of his eye. “What’s on your mind, Cherry?” When she shook her head, he said gently,

“Oh, yes, there is. I’m not as absent-minded as you think I am. I noticed, for instance, that you filed my notes on quinine substitutes in the wrong drawer,” he
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smiled at her over a row of test tubes, “and you forgot to bring me the drugs I requisitioned for tomorrow’s experiment.”

Cherry pressed her hands against her tingling face.

“I’m sorry. If you’ll give me your authorization, I’ll get the drugs right away. I’m not much help to you, am I, Dr. Joe?”

“We-ell, I really need a technical assistant. But I’m going to keep you on for company. After all, if your mother has Midge, then I ought to have her daughter in exchange. That’s only fair, isn’t it?” He pottered around the long laboratory sink. “About the assistant——” Dr. Joe fumbled in the pocket of his crumpled laboratory coat. Cherry waited for him to finish his remark.

He took some notes out of his pocket, searched for a pencil, sat down on a stool, and absorbedly started to write. Cherry was used to this.

In two or three minutes, he looked up again and grinned sheepishly. “Where were we?”

“About a technician for you,” Cherry prompted.

Dr. Fortune rose from the stool and seated himself slowly in the one comfortable chair. “He looks old,” Cherry thought, “and tired. It’s no wonder, the way he drives himself with this research.” Aloud she said,

“Couldn’t you take a little vacation, Dr. Joe? Perhaps around Thanksgiving? Midge will have vacation from high school that week end.”

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“Vacation! With our hospitals desperately under-staffed? Does malaria, or the other tropical diseases, take a vacation? Do our soldiers in the Pacific get vaca-tions from danger and infection?” Then he said less sternly, “I think I’ve found the man I want.”

“Who is it?” Cherry asked.

“He came to me voluntarily because he, too, is interested in research for developing quinine substitutes. He says he’s not a specialist in it, but he knows the field like a specialist.” Dr. Fortune tamped down the tobacco in his pipe, thinking aloud as he often did with Cherry.

“This staff man can give me only a little of his crowded time. A technician could give me his full time—if there were a technician to spare in wartime!” He talked a little further about the man’s abilities and the technical aspects of the research.

Cherry found it difficult to understand and she in voluntarily glanced down at her watch. There was not much time to get Dr. Joe his supplies before the main laboratory in Spencer was locked for the day. She rose.

Where
did
time go? She ought to spend some time with her probie, she wanted to have time for Lex——

“Would you stop in at the office,” Dr. Joe was saying,

“and ask them to have Dr. Upham come in and see me?”

“Who?” Cherry asked, startled.

“Lex Upham, the man I was telling you about.” Dr. Joe patted her cheek. “You’ll have to meet him.”
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Cherry said meekly, “That’s right, I will meet him here, won’t I?”

So he wasn’t just a fly-by-night! She had supposed he was joking about becoming Dr. Joe’s assistant. From now on, she would approach Dr. Lex Upham with the same respect and caution as a stick of dynamite. It occurred to her, with a grin, that coming to Dr. Joe’s laboratory would be even nicer when Lex started his work here next month.

It was not until several busy days later that Cherry met Lex himself. He happened to be, or he said he “just happened to be,” passing through the Obstetrics Clinic, when Cherry went off duty at three. She rushed up to him, noticing that he looked very much amused about something.

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